Guyanese groundsman stumped in Charlieville

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(By Jonathan Ramnanansingh/Trinidad and Tobago Newsday)

How far will a father go to ensure his family is financially stable and his child gets a sound education?

For Alescon Comets Cricket Club curator Basil Shewram, 54, the past 12 years have been solely focused on his role as the family’s lone breadwinner.

Since 2008, Shewram, who is Guyanese, has been travelling to Trinidad and Tobago annually to ensure the TT Cricket Board (TTCB) Premiership club’s pitch and outfield remain in top form.

He usually arrives on the cusp of the cricket season in January and returns home at the end, in June. This tiresome journey, he says, has been instrumental in taking his son Shawn through his law degree at the University of Guyana. It also provides much-needed aid towards his family’s monthly bills back home.

In 2017, Shawn topped the region in business studies at the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination. His academic performance saw Shawn become the first recipient of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants/Caribbean Examinations Council business studies award.

However, since all sporting facilities were closed on March 15 and TT’s borders locked down seven days later, his father, a veteran groundsman, has had to do odd jobs in and around central Trinidad to stay financially afloat and help provide for his family in Guyana.

He is living in the club’s storeroom beneath the pavilion at Pierre Road Ground, Charlieville, where he usually stays when working in TT.

Shewram said when the season was abruptly put on hold on March 15 to prevent the spread of COVID-19, club officials said he would be paid until March 20. He used those days to secure the club’s assets, received his cheque five days later – and was then stuck in TT when the borders closed on March 22.

“After receiving my cheque for 20 days in March, I was unable to organise everything I needed to return home. I practically had one day (March 21).

“I didn’t know the borders would have been closed for this lengthy period of time.

“Honestly, I also stayed because I wanted to source an apartment for my son to stay in come September, when he has to come to Trinidad to complete his final two years of study at Hugh Wooding Law School,” he said.

Government restrictions for the past couple of months and the strict stay-at-home measures left Shewram stumped. With no salary, as the club made it clear it would be unable to pay him during the downtime, he began searching for odd jobs.

He is working with the father of a former Alescon Comets/current national player.

Basil Shewram, cricket pitch curator, at the Pierre Road Ground, Charlieville on Monday (Photo: Marvin Hamilton/Newsday)

“I asked one of the club executives for a small loan of one month’s salary last week, which I suggested could be deducted from next year’s salary, but that was declined.

“I just want to ensure my son is comfortable when he gets here and need not worry about anything. He’s so close to becoming a lawyer and I will do what I have to to make sure he has a safe place to stay here in Trinidad.

“I don’t need luxuries. My family must be taken care of, though.”

On Saturday, an Alescon Comets official, who wished to remain anonymous, was sympathetic to Shewram’s quandary, but said the club was cash-strapped and unable to lend him money.

The official said the club made sure its two Guyanese players returned home on March 17, before the border closure, and felt Shewram should have done the same instead of staying in Trinidad.

“We’re not in a position to lend money right now and I don’t think any club is, as a matter of fact. Basil should have gone home with the two players on March 17, but chose not to do so. I have offered to source several small jobs for him, but people are sceptical (sic) to allow strangers at their home now, especially with COVID-19 and the way things are going,” the official said.

When the TT Cricket Board cancelled the rest of the 2020 domestic season on May 13, that compounded Shewram’s woes, as it was clear he would not receive any income from Comets until 2021.

But he remains hopeful the 2020 Central Super League (CSL) gets the green light to bowl off within the coming weeks of phased reopening by the Government. He has worked in the past for the local T20 league, which uses the Pierre Road ground.

To aid the longserving curator, several past and present Alescon Comets players have been dropping hampers and food for him on weekends.

Former Alescon Comets talisman Rayad Emrit, in a Facebook post, expressed his disappointment at the curator’s treatment in Trinidad, and called for added assistance from the public.

Emrit posted, “These ppl (sic) brought this man from another country have him staying under a pavilion infested with mosquitoes…just to save on rent. This man is one of the most humble beings on earth and all he asked for was some money to send back to his family home and these people who have a lot more that most people would turn and tell this man they have NO MONEY to give him. These people talk about transparency ALL the time but you guys are just wicked…There is a reason why the club is where it is and it’s because of you guys.”

Contacted for a response, the Comets official said Emrit was no longer a representative of the club and should direct his interests elsewhere.

“This guy (Emrit) left the club and has no say here. He is trying to bring down the club. But our 90-year history has spoken for itself.

“We offered Basil a chance to return home and he declined. He chose to stay and we made it clear we were unable to pay him.

“If he wishes to wait in hope the CSL comes off, that’s up to him. The club has already made a decision, relayed that information to Basil, and the cricket season is now closed.”

Shewram, although struggling to make ends meet, does not want any bad blood between himself and club officials. He remains optimistic he will get enough odd jobs to survive.

“I would like to keep my job and return next year to continue my work.

“It is a hard time for me, but councillor Faaiq Mohammed and players like Emrit, Imran Khan and Bryan Charles have been helping me out.

“My job is important and necessary for the future success of my family,” he said.

People willing to assist Shewram can contact 398-3408. (Newsday)

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