In 1997 I was a trainee at the local sugar factory when we were all called into a room at the HR building and told that they will no longer be continuing our programme with immediate effect. This of course came as a shock to everyone, who now had to wonder where would we get training or even a job.
It was months before I was able to secure a job, during which time I had the bright idea to stop training with the Dow Village Cricket Club and try my luck with the nationally known Wanderers Cricket Club. To my surprise they were very accommodating of new players and I was welcomed quite warmly and even given the nickname as "Wimpy" since they say I resembled the skippers brother who had the same nickname. You could imagine the confusion this caused.
The training was rigorous, starting with many laps around the ground, then batting, bowling and fielding. Since there was no nets, all practice sessions took place in the middle, the evening was finished with catching practice. I didn't mind it at all since I was practising alongside players such as Richard Sieuchan, Marlon Black, Denis Rampersad, the latter two and myself went to the same schools from primary all the way to secondary school. This made acclimatization into the club so much easier.
Practice had an intensity that I had never seen, probably due to the fact that at this level getting onto the first team meant there was a chance to be seen by the national selectors. One incident that has stayed with me was when a player known as Charlie (Rajendra Mangalie) was padding up to bat and Marlon Black insisted that he wore his helmet. After much deliberation he finally put it on, after about six or seven deliveries he got a short quick delivery from Black which somehow got between the grill of the helmet and left Charlie on the floor bleeding heavily from a nasty gash over his eye. Guess who was padded up next.....ME!!!!!
So I went into bat nervous as a man skinny dipping with piranhas, first few deliveries I was tentative, played and missed a lot, lost my stumps many times, until the coach asked me if I was batting with a tyre and suggested that I should start playing hop-scotch. After that I started to actually bat, hit quite a few nice shots, man I was playing like a pro, that was until I hit Mr Black for a cover drive that had the crowd on its feet (yes there were crowds at training). It was immediately after this shot for which I posed for pictures, that I realized I had a problem with short 90mph deliveries aimed at my head. I was bombarded with so much by the future WI quickie that I was the most relieved man when my stint was over.
The first match of the season was an away game against Queen's Park Cricket Club and to my surprise my name was on the team sheet. I was going to be playing at the Queen's Park Oval, I was as happy as a vagrant on jouvert morning. Stepping onto the field at the Oval for the warm up, the first thing I noticed was my reflection when I looked down on the outfield, at this point it didn't matter that I was the 12th man. We lost the toss and had to field first and of course being 12th man I was soon called onto the field as a substitute, did I mind.....hell no.....I was diving for balls that was hit straight at me, such a good time I was having.
The rest of the season I played mostly B-teams games which was quite fun and competitive. It also kept us quite fit for whenever a chance came up to join the first team. Sadly for me my only other time on the first team was another 12th man appearance, this time against Clarke Road United at their Wilson Road ground in Penal South Trinidad.The facilities there was a far cry from what I experienced at the Oval but it was a wonderful experience, which made me realize that people from South Trinidad are much friendlier than their northern counterparts.
During this time with the second team, the first team had made the finals of the Carib Shield 30 over a side night cricket finals at Guaracara Park against arch rivals Moosai Sports who had Tony Gray in their ranks. I made sure I had on my team training kit and reached at Gilbert Park to catch the team bus, all in an attempt to get into the ground free since I didn't make the team and was still unemployed.
Guaracara Park was filled to its 10,000 spectator capacity, there was no room between boundary line and spectator which prompted the skipper to say to the guys focus on the game and not on the sexy legs in the crowd!!! I was not playing so I was focusing on the sexy legs. The game itself was an excellent match, with Wanderers winning thanks to a century by Deonarine Deyal, even Tony Gray's super fast bowling couldn't save Moosai on that night. After that all I could remember was getting on the team bus, stopping by every bar between Guaracara Park and Gilbert Park, and trust me in Trinidad there is a lot. I have no idea on how or when I got home.
That game was at the end of what I would call an interesting season, and I was counting down the days to the next season. however, I was offered a job at one of the petrochemical plants and I suddenly the time for cricket was no longer there. It was substituted by work and when not in work, liming, and more liming.
Would I have been a better cricketer if I had remained unemployed? Maybe I could have made the T&T team? I don't know the answers to those questions, what I do know is that I love how my life turned out and that my love for the game is still there. Who knows I may still pad up and test my skills against the younger generation........now where did I put my box!!!!!!