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After recognizing USA’s standout performers on the field of play at the international level with the fourth annual New Inning Foundation USA Cricket Awards, DreamCricket.com and New Inning Foundation are continuing a commitment to recognize other members of the USA cricket community who have made an outstanding contribution to the overall fabric of cricket in America.
The recipient of the 2013 Shekhar Aravind Award for Spirit of Cricket is Tom Melville. Tom joins Jamie Harrison and Owen Graham, who are the previous recipients of the award, which was launched in 2011.
For long, Tom Melville has been an influential figure in U.S. cricket. Through his columns, many of which have been published on DreamCricket.com, Melville has made a strong case for a new cricketing culture, calling it 'a tremendously challenging and uncharted task' because 'hundreds of years of accumulated cultural baggage and cultural stereotypes must be discarded or at least remade to attract an American following.'
Through his books, Melville has reminded Americans about how cricket, even if it has resisted an American identity, has continued to find considerable appeal, both as a sport and as an activity that fostered sportsmanship.
Melville's book 'The Tented Field - A History of Cricket in America,' is widely regarded the most authoritative thematic history of the sport in the United States. A second book that he authored, 'Cricket for Americans: Playing and Understanding the Game' is easily one of the best books for an American looking to play the sport.
As one reader wrote on Amazon.com: "I can testify that it is a first-rate primer on the ancient game of cricket. After reading it, I now know that bowling a maiden over is not salacious, how to distinguish a silly point from a frivolous argument and why it is disgraceful to make a duck."
Through his active presence at festivals, fairs and historical reenactments, Melville has inspired many hundreds of 'uncricketed' Americans to take up cricket. And in doing so, he also inspired a cricket movement called USYCA.
In 2008, Jamie Harrison, a history teacher at Cardinal Gibbons, led his students on a two-day visit to Civil War sites in Richmond. There the teacher and his students from Cardinal Gibbons School were introduced to cricket by a 'smallish man in period clothing,' who else but Tom Melville (Pictured Right).
In the words of Jamie Harrison, "We probably played for about an hour, and it turned out to be the most fun we had all weekend. While we were still in Richmond, the boys were already talking about finding a way to play cricket after they returned to school in Baltimore. I said supportive things, but didn’t really believe that their new infatuation would last. I was wrong. By the time I got back to my classroom on Monday morning, a nascent cricket club had already begun to develop."
This nascent cricket club then turned into a ten-week intramural season. The school eventually shut its doors but Jamie Harrison, together with Edward Fox and Rakesh Kallem went on to start the hugely successful USYCA, which has continued to introduce the sport to many thousands of American kids.
In the absence of an organized and continuous development effort at the national level, it is largely because of volunteers that cricket thrives in this country. Melville embodies all that servants like former Midwest Cricket Conference President Shekhar “Shekhs” Aravind strived to accomplish in cricket. Aravind served as president of one of the biggest leagues in the USA, which has teams stretching from Wisconsin to Missouri, until his tragic death after injuries sustained in a boating accident in 2011 at age 38.
Image (right) - Shekhar Aravind
Aravind once stated that one of his biggest hopes was that the “promotion of youth cricket in academies, schools and districts will pique interest and help grow the crowds here in the Midwest and around the country.”
It is the spirit of volunteers like Melville, who is a constant fixture at festivals in the Midwest, where he is based, and across the country, who are carrying out Aravind’s mission by helping Americans enjoy cricket and maintain a relationship with the game.
Congratulations to Tom Melville on receiving the 2013 Shekhar Aravind Award for Spirit of Cricket. As part of this honor, Melville will receive a plaque recognizing his contributions to the United States cricket community sponsored by New Inning Foundation.