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By Venu Palaparthi
The Philadelphia CC outfield is just not your average cricket outfield. Sir Garfield Sobers, previous Philadelphia Cricket Festival Guest of Honor called the venue "amongst the finest he had seen anywhere in the world!" The hallowed turf has been mowed for 159 years.
Pic (Right and below): Shaun Pollock and Shiv Chanderpaul sign autographs at Philadelphia Cricket Festival [All pictures Courtesy of Paul Hensley, CC Morris Library]
If the spectacular ground, the storied pavilion and the splendid outfield were not enough of a feast for a cricket die-hard, there were two former Test captains walking around the venue, signing autographs and sharing their impressions of cricket.
Shiv Chanderpaul and Shaun Pollock were at the festival. The latter was this year’s guest of honor. As for Shiv Chanderpaul, the understated star just turned out for his Florida club, Sarasota CC.
West Haven CC probably never imagined that they would be in a final against a side whose lead batsman had scored 10,830 Test runs, 8,778 ODI runs and 21,951 First Class runs to date and continues to amass runs at every opportunity. I overheard someone say, “They will go back with stories to tell their mates about the time they played against Chanderpaul's team.”
Chanderpaul featured in a trademark inning - a risk-free and classy enterprise that achieved a strike rate of 150. Together with his partners Sreenath (27) and Nikunj Patel, he took his side from 11 for 1 to 53 for 2 and then onward to 101 before retiring after making 42 runs (off 28 balls). Some overs later, it was Nikunj’s turn to retire, also on 42, the score now reading 143 for 3. By the time the Sarasota innings ended, they had scored 164. In reply, West Haven CC folded on 84. Prasad Sahasrabudhe’s 35 from 29 balls was the best score for the visitors from Connecticut.
Shaun Pollock was a consummate gentleman. The guest of honor more than made his presence felt. He played one game for each of the five host clubs at the tournament. When he was not playing, he was seen discussing the game with the spectators.
While in Philly, Pollock also made time for other sports - on May 3rd, he threw the first pitch in the Phillies baseball match against the Marlins. The next morning, on May 4th, Shaun played golf at the Merion Golf Club, which will be hosting the US Open next month, the fifth time in the club’s history. Historians will remember that the golf club was spun off from the Merion Cricket Club in 1896.
Spectators at the Philadelphia Cricket Club ground included the who's who of American cricket. The recipient of New Inning's 2011 Bart King Lifetime Achievement, and the grand old man of American cricket - Al Reeves was there. In a brief interaction with the author, Reeves spoke about Australia's tour of England in which Hedley Verity troubled Don Bradman in England. When I returned, I did a bit of research and realized he may have been talking about the 1934 series. Also present at the venue was USYCA’s Jamie Harrison and ACF's Mike Thomas. The two organizations had just announced a partnership the previous day. Lloyd Jodah was there discussing ACC's growth. CC Morris Library's Paul Hensley was busy taking pictures. Cricket novelists Ewart Rouse and Dr. Vikram Dravid were spotted signing books at the event. And Suresh Menon, Editor of Wisden India Almanack, was enjoying Chanderpaul's artistry. Deepak Katte of USACUA was taking in the game after officiating the morning game. Dr. Tahir Maqsood of GPCL was busy making plans for an end of season T20 event.
Postscript: For me personally, the trip was a memorable one. Ten years ago, I was passing by the area and stopped at the Philadelphia CC after seeing a sign for the club. This year, my club, the Amwell Valley CC, won the Wanderers trophy at the festival.
Sarasota CC poses with the trophy
Shaun Pollock joins spectators on the boundary line
Shaun Pollock poses with Mike Thomas of ACF and Al Reeves of BOCC