One Guyana T10 Blast: More than just a cricket tournament

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By Vishani Ragobeer

vishani@newsroom.gy

If you’re a sport fan, and a cricket fan more specifically, you might’ve heard about the Kares One Guyana T10 Tapeball Cricket tournament that just wrapped up.

Any report would reflect that the Eccles All Stars, the only team to go unbeaten all tournament, became the inaugural tournament champions.

While the Village Rams seemed to be the tournament favourite, the All-Stars proved their mettle to me in the earlier rounds of the tournament. My favourite game was their match-up with the Guards at the Everest Cricket Ground on July 30.

Of course, seeing Keemo Paul (a fave!) playing for the Guards was a treat, and enough people were saying “that’s my boy” to confirm that many others felt the same. Paul and Christopher Barnwell were in the middle by the time the first two wickets fell. And I was ready for the All-Stars to be demolished.

I told my friends that Guards would ‘eat up’ the All-Stars. Spoiler, they didn’t. And I had to hear how much of a “weights” I was for the rest of the day. Lesson learnt!

The Guards lost to the Eccles All Stars at the Everest Cricket Club Ground on July 30

By the last match of the tournament- which was also the first game played under the lights at the National Stadium, Providence- the All Stars faced off with V-Net Vipers. Until this point, the Vipers were also untouchable.

The All-Stars started strong, posting 154-5. The match, which continued until just before midnight, came down to the Vipers needing 38 runs from the last over. Technically, it wasn’t an impossible feat, but it was one the All-Stars wouldn’t let the Vipers slither away with.

The celebrations started when the first ball of that over resulted in a dot ball. The momentum stayed, and the All Stars became the tournament’s champions, got the $1 million prize and proved to be Guyana’s best tapeball XI.

Eccles All Stars celebrate as champions of the inaugural Kares One Guyana T10Tapeball Blast

But for many, this wasn’t the most anticipated match of the tournament. It certainly wasn’t for me.

Just before, a charity match featuring no less than Guyana’s President, Dr. Irfaan Ali raised over $17.5 million for 11 orphanages, two animal welfare groups and other charitable initiatives.

Dr. Ali was the tournament’s patron. It made sense for him to be since ‘One Guyana’ initiative is his. He also put his cricketing skills to the test.

As the second semi-final match, the V-Net Vipers versus the Tarmac Titans,  went on, the President arrived at Providence. He was already dressed in his sport apparel (One Guyana #1 printed boldly on his back) and went straight into the nets to practise his shots before his big game.

If that wasn’t enough to prove how serious he was about the game, he faced deliveries non stop in the nets- even from spin bowling extraordinaire and honorary Guyanese Imran Tahir (YES! Tahir was also playing in the tournament).

President Dr. Irfaan Ali focused on honing his skills in the nets

That continued on the field when President Ali’s ‘Roraima’ team faced off against ‘Kanuku’.

In the green stands, I loved no better fun than hollering for anyone to bowl out ‘Presi’. If I was playing and managed to do that, you better believe I would put it in my Instagram bio or LinkedIn profile!

It didn’t happen, though. Time slowed down every time the President ran between the wickets because he wasn’t running out.
That was for some greater good since the more runs he made, and the more money would be donated to charity.

Unfortunately, the batsmen accompanying him in the middle didn’t have the same luck. And at the innings break (after 12 overs, not 10), the President’s team posted 125/4.

Lennox Cush, Ramnaresh Sarwan and Barnwell (who played for the Guards before) were among the Guyanese stars opposing the President’s Roraima. Although early fireworks from Barnwell demonstrated that the President’s side might lose, that clearly could not happen.

Roraima tightened up their fielding and bowling, and President Ali was the man who got a hat trick. Theatrics of the game aside, you had to be there and see it to believe it!

The game came down to 15 runs needed from the last over and seven runs from the last ball. A last-ball six would mean the game would’ve gone into a Super Over, but Commissioner of Police (ag.) Clifton Hicken, who towered over the wicket, could not connect with the ball.

That meant Roraima, and President Ali, won the charity match.

The final matches were exciting enough, though no different from earlier matches. And this was to be expected. T10 tournaments are short, fast and exhilarating.
President Dr. Irfaan Ali celebrating on the field
They have become increasingly popular around the world. It has been sanctioned by the International Cricket Council (ICC) and even floated as a format that could allow cricket to be played at the Olympics again.

Still, excitement on the field was well-complimented by what happened off the field.

The tournament was organised by four guys who did everything from running behind teams, managing play across several grounds and securing sponsorship all around.

They were supported by a behind-the-scenes creative genius bringing top-class social media updates (have you seen the tournament’s Facebook page!?) and the guys who walked around the fields and through the stands with camera in hand enough times to shed at least 10 pounds.

The FL Sport team deserves their flowers, too.

The Vipers in action at the Enmore Cricket Ground, which was one of several venues used for the tournament

A small and youthful team, led by John Ramsingh (one of the four co-directors of the tournament), handled the tournament’s live broadcast, scoring and commentating. They were the source many of us turned to when we lost track of the developments on the field.

Finally, a word on marriage between the ‘One Guyana’ initiative and the sport.

Many months ago, one of the co-directors and I randomly spoke about the One Guyana ideal and what it really meant. I first learnt about the tournament then and that director firmly believed that sports can bring people together, not unlike what the One Guyana agenda seems to be in pursuit of.

We are still seeing how the President’s vision for his One Guyana initiative is unfolding but sports must be an integral part of it. Sports are, after all, dubbed the great unifier. This T10 tournament is just an example of how people can work together to achieve a common goal- winning games, raising money for charity, or letting people have a good time.

This tournament can easily be a staple part of Guyana’s annual sports calendar. In some ways, it already feels like a curtain raiser for the Caribbean Premiere League (CPL)- something to get the adrenaline flowing before our annual national heartbreak with the Guyana Amazon Warriors (this year IS WE YEAR, though).

Fans filled the green stands of the National Stadium, Providence, for the finals of the Kares One Guyana T10 Tapeball Blast

I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t say one more thing before I ended here.

I’m sure the tournament will grow and improve in the coming years, but I hope we can see women’s teams playing as soon as next year.

I haven’t asked the organisers if this was part of their plans this year or if they plan to include women next year. But I think it is worth mentioning here.

We should always look for ways to empower more women and girls, and I hope this venture is supported if the organisers plan to make it happen.

And who knows? I may be showing off my cricketing skills and getting closer to my destined West Indies call-up. Maybe.

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