Police cars and vans were everywhere as Police Commissioner Ray Kelly appeared - but it was all good, he was here to spin the Toss to begin the 2nd NYPD Cricket Championship Finals.
Started in 2008 as part of the NYPD Community Affairs to reach out to young men aged 15 to 19, the Cricket League is a resounding success for the NYPD, New York City and American cricket. For a second I thought of George Washington spinning the coin when he played cricket with his Troops. Lycans won the toss and sent Superstars into bat. Inspector Kosseim had inspected the pitch.
The Superstars managed by former first class cricketer Ijaz Asgaralli, appeared to be the favorite. They had won all their games, including one a month ago against Lycans. Lycans, on the other hand, had lost their early matches before winning in the later rounds. Their Captain, Arif Uzzaman hit 104* and two 50's to propel them into the Finals.
The Superstars had 3 USA players in their lineup, Andy "Aza" Mohammed and Kavishwar Bridgepaul were representing the USA in the Under 19 World Cup Qualifiers; Aza hit a century in the National Eastern Conference Tournament whilst Bridgepaul just last Saturday had hit 54* against College Champions Montgomery. Trevis Ross had clinched the game for the USA Under 15 Team against Bermuda on Monday taking 4 for 18.
Tiki Barber, the great former Giants running back, was there with NBC News crew to cover the game (the story will be on NBC Nightly News at 6 o'clock Wednesday), as was the Daily News. He drew a comparison between a fast bowler charging up to a batsman and a linebacker attacking a ruinning back. The Lycans fast bowlers took 2 early wickets of Aza and Ross. Ross went to a brilliant running catch by Jamaid Hassan in deep cover. Thakoor Singh roadblocked Shovan Rahman's hatrick, then the Lycons bailed out the Superstars by dropping Singh.
At the other end Bridgepaul restored some law and order by charging the bowling,he off drove for 4, then with a ballet-like twirl reminiscent of Majid Khan hooked for 6. A cover drive,pull and another cover drive along the ground by Bridgepaul for 4's brought up the 50 with Bridgepaul on 34 in the 9th over. Going for another big hit Bridgepaul was caught deep in the covers.
A couple of quick wickets had the Superstars reeling before Imdad Khan mediated, putting his left leg down the wicket and pulling and off driving 3 sixes in his 23, Kowchai and V Singh contributed 11 each to get Superstars to 118 in their 20 overs. A surprisingly low score by the strongest Team in the League.Farijee Mohammed took 2 for 14, and Shovon Rahman 2 for 17.
On the sidelines Tiki Barber was feeling the excitement and learning every detail of cricket. Though the temperature was in the 90's the crowd didn't seem bothered by the heat as they were caught up in the moment. Police Officers were closely following the action. Many cricket fans have been working under cover as police officers.
Arif Uzzaman went into action like a SWAT Team blasting 2 sixes and a 4. A cover drive for 6 was delightful, before he opted to sit in the shade, going caught off Kowchai. At the other end bowler Gandhi had pacified Farijee who went for 6. At 57 for 3 in 9 overs Lycans were matching the Superstars' 54 for 3 in 9 overs.
Mahatabul Alam cut a bouncer for 4,cover drove for 4 whilst Shafiq celebrated 40 years since we landed on the moon by launching the ball into orbit for 6. Despite these shots the Superstars bowlers had arrested the scoring and Lycans were 77 for 3 after 12 overs. Still 40 to get in 8 overs was not difficult, until Shafiq was bowled for 25 by Thakoor Singh and the score became 88 for 4. A brilliant running and rolling catch by Kowchai- the fielding play of the day- off Bridgepaul ( 2 for 22) sent Naimul Islam back to the pavillion and Lycans were worried at 106 for 6.
A run out and a tight 18th over by Captain Aza gave Superstars hope.The crowd,was feeling the thrill of the finish whilst Officer Jeff Thompson could barely contain himself, then a late cut for 4 by Mahatabul Alam sealed the victory for Lycans in the 19th over. Lycans supporters stormed the field, followed by the NBC crew.
Afterwards both Captains Arif Uzzaman (John Jay-Cuny) and Andy Aza Mohammed (John Jay-Cuny) expressed their appreciation for the efforts of the NYPD, especially Inspector Kosseim and Officer Jeff Thompson. Arif said "the work of all the NYPD Officers was amazing". Asked how his Team had turned their season around after losing their first games Arif said "We practised hard"
A gracious Aza extended his "Congratulations to the Champions Lycans".
Commissioner Kelly presented Awards to all the players and the enormous Raymond W Kelly Trophy to the Champions Lycans. MVP was Mahatabul Alam who took his Team to victory with 34 *.
Commissioner Kelly declared "What an exciting finish! Competition was tough and we had an enthusiatic following (all season). Next year will be bigger and better !"
Commissioner Kelly and Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne took time to get feedback on the Cricket League and were told "it's fantastic.Connecting with young men, aged 15 to 19 and using their energy in positive ways is absolutely essential. Society benefits immensely from initiatives like the NYPD Cricket League"