The entire world has been affected by the Coronavirus Pandemic and every aspect of life has been touched. Cricket is life for so many and of course, the sport was brought to a grinding halt. Not a ball rolled across an outfield.
Cricket lover extraordinaire Mahammad Qureshi woke up one windy blustery morning and peered through his window and the thought came to his mind as to whether there will ever be cricket again. His heart sunk as he glanced around his palatial home to see cricket bats, helmets, balls, and pads strewn all over the place. This was a reminder of his first love – cricket.
As he gathered himself and went into his home office to attend Zoom meetings concerning his many businesses, the vibe was just not there. He received a call from his dear friend Amin Markatia who helped him form Cricket Council USA in the 90s. Normally the duo will play tennis on a sprawling tennis court at the back of Qureshi’s home.
Qureshi just could not muster the strength to go to the court for his normal exercise. His phone had been ringing off the hook with cricketers and administrators in America wanting to hear something positive from the Godfather of cricket in the US.
All of a sudden he switched off his phone and went into deep thought. Speaking to SCORELINE he said: “Something told me at that point that I needed to take matters into my own hands in order to restart the cricket. Of course, one’s health is of paramount importance but there must be a way to bring back cricket at least in some small manner.
“Just as when USACA the then ruling body in America for cricket was banned by the ICC, cricketers found my number and kept calling me looking for opportunities to play the game. I said to myself this is yet another case where if I don’t stand all will fall.
“I contacted Broward Health through my CCUSA office and got wind of all that was necessary to restart the sport safely. In June I decided to get back on the park and word went around that there will be cricket at the Maq Stadium in Delray Beach. No spectators, only cricketers were allowed into the park.
“We spent a lot of money to equip the venue with the best in terms of safety tools in order to keep our players good and safe. The match came off without incident as players were given specific instructions to abide by.”
After that initial game, there has been cricket every weekend at the Maq Stadium and now CCUSA is angling to have the popular US Open T20 tournament at the Central Broward Regional Park in Fort Lauderdale.
The tournament which attracts world-class players from outside the US will be played from December 15 until December 20. CCUSA has now cut the number of teams taking part to eight and they will be playing in the bio-secure area of the Stadium with no spectators. Qureshi is thrilled: “I am so happy that we will have high-quality cricket again. The numbers in terms of the Coronavirus have not dwindled to the level that we would want but the burning desire for this game has trumped all of that.”
With no cricket around for the first few months of the Pandemic, Qureshi said he was worried about the future of the game. “This Coronavirus has left us unsure about so many things in this life. It seems that if you want anything you have to have the courage to get around this thing.
“Not being able to play cricket reminded me of my days early days in Pakistan when I had to hide my bat under my clothes and run away from my parents’ home just to play the game. That was the sweetest cricket I have ever played. And when we turned up to play after the first few months of the pandemic, that feeling mirrored those days on the dusty streets of Karachi.
“We intend to keep cricket going at CCUSA and we will be having tournaments after tournaments because we understand that it takes to keep the players progressing.”
Qureshi who managed the US team a decade ago added that once there is a will, there will be a way forward from this pandemic. “We need to understand that we may have to live with this thing for a while. What shall we do? Give up on the sport that brings us so much happiness? Or fight to stay in the park and bring a better day to all concerned.”
***Vinode Mamchan, Multi Media broadcast sports Journalist. Work at the T&T Guardian. Cover West Indies and regional cricket. Talk show host covering a wide range of sports.