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DreamCricket.com announced on December 17, 2012 that three new awards would be announced for 2012 for the New Inning Foundation USA Cricket Awards. Among the new awards is one that recognizes an organization or a league that is helping cricket grow by expanding access to the game.
The 2012 New Inning Foundation Best Cricket League is New York Public Schools Athletic League's Cricket program.
Known by the acronym PSAL, the Public Schools Athletic League promotes student athletics in the public schools of New York City. PSAL holds competitions in 44 varsity sports for more than 37,000 student athletes at over 400 member schools. PSAL's mission is to provide opportunities for educating students in physical fitness, character development and socialization skills through athletic involvement. PSAL emphasizes teamwork, discipline and sportsmanship.
In 2008, New York City became the first school district in the U.S. to introduce cricket as a varsity sport in its public schools. The impetus came from Lorna Austin, a PSAL administrator, who saw that many South Asian students were not playing any of the mainstream sports like football, baseball, basketball or hockey. In 2008, the league was launched with the help of Lorna Austin (Cricket Coordinator), Bassett Thompson (Cricket Commissioner), Ricky Kissoon (Assistant Commissioner), Paul DaSilva, Sam Sooppersaud and others. Thirteen schools participated in the first PSAL Cricket championship in 2008.
In a news report about PSAL, Reuters noted that the interest of US born teenagers was piqued by the league. Timothy Brown, who already played football, baseball, basketball and wrestled for Automotive High School, joined the school's cricket team. "When I first started playing, I thought you could have a glove, because the ball is kind of hard," Brown told Reuters. Angus Armstrong, had already been playing for three years at Stuyvesant High School. For him, the league offered a way to gain insight into the cultures of other nations.
When the league was announced, PSAL Cricket Commissioner, Bassett Thompson said, "We are not going to replace basketball or football any time soon, but it will spill over." By 2012, the league doubled in size to 28 schools and 450 players. Each school plays roughly 12 matches each season in the T20 format. As expected, the participation of high school students has been able to serve as a catalyst for expanding access to cricket grounds and the involvement of other organizations in cricket including the Police Athletic League.
As Sam Sooppersaud wrote on NewYorkCricket.com, thanks to the efforts of PSAL, there has been an increase in the number of young men coming into the game. In 2009, only two of the New York U-19 players were from PSAL. By 2012, over 75% of the New York Region's U-19 team was comprised of PSAL alumni. Several including Zahib Tariq, Randall Wilson and Amarnauth Persaud have gone on to play for USA.
The Best League award was initially commissioned as a popular choice award along with Best Ground and Best Cricket Photo. The Best Ground and Best Cricket Photo contests were successfully held on Facebook and the winners - Woodley Cricket Grounds and Beenish Rezavi's photo submission, received an outpouring of support from across the country. However, the Best League poll became engulfed in controversy after a league received a large number of votes on Facebook from thousands of spurious ids based in countries such as Uganda and Malaysia with no interest in USA cricket.
Over the years, the awards have recognized passion, excellence, dedication and perseverance of the people that are keeping cricket alive in this country. After the popular vote became unreliable, the popular poll was annulled and the winner was selected by DreamCricket's panel of judges.
In recognition of PSAL Cricket's achievements, Lorna Austin (Coordinator), Bassett Thompson (Commissioner) and Ricky Kissoon (Assistant Commissioner) will receive an award plaque sponsored by New Inning Foundation.