On the eve of the match between two teams that stir varying emotions, I wanted to say a few things in response to some of things that have been written/said. Let me start by refuting something my friend Pranjal wrote in his article. He stated that, “Zolon Challengers Cricket Club, is a team of stars paid for and assembled by a money-loaded corporation after scanning Asia and scouting the Americas. A lot of them are professionals who earn their livelihood from cricket, make no mistake they ARE very good. There is even a former Test match player in the roster, and most are First Class players from around the world playing a high level of cricket. A truly international team and hired to do just one job: bring home the cup.”

Only goes to show how little he knows about our team. Let me familiarize everyone with our players. Let’s start with the former Test Player Tapash Baisiya. He is the ONLY truly professional player in the team as he has played professional cricket in the past. Next we have Roy Silva, who plays cricket on weekends around the country as and when he can find tournaments to participate in, but has never played for any professional club in the world. Next we have Jaskaran Malhotra, who in the past represented Himachal Pradesh in Ranji Trophy but did not play for any team professionally. And then we have the Jamaican players (Vassell, Kijana, Creary). These are a group of college students from Jamaica who came and lived here the entire summer. You can call them summer interns, but professionals? I’m afraid not. None of them play any professional cricket in Jamaica and have to take summer jobs just to pay their tuition. They all play cricket for their college teams and most don’t even have college scholarships to do so. These guys wanted to come and experience America and play cricket here so we hosted them. Most of them struggled early when they came and took time to adjust to the playing conditions here. I clearly remember a t20 game against Boyds where Vassell went for close to 40 runs in his 3 overs as he struggled to bowl on that surface. What these young guys had was grit and determination to do well. They became a part of the team and the Zolon family and became emotionally connected. These are 20-22 year old boys who come from humble backgrounds and just wanted to experience something new. They didn’t even have proper cricket shoes or a bat or pads or gloves when they got here. Feel free to call them professional players, or Rentals, or Outsiders if you like. Vassell and Kijana couldn’t even stay until the finals because their college started and they had to go back.

Now let’s talk about the remaining players who will take the field this weekend. Leveredge is another Jamaican who works in the Jamaican Coast Guard. His “profession” is to work on ships. When he is not working, he likes to play cricket. Taylor is a member of the US Cricket Team and is as professional as Adil Bhatti is. Granted, this past season he did get selected to play in CPL, where he was picked to play in one game. The rest of the team? Gourav Bajaj, who used to live here and had to move to Houston as that’s where he got a job. Fahed, Juber, Digant, Anurag. None of us will be mistaken for professional players. Feel free to call this a team of international stars if it makes you feel better about your own team.

Last weekend, vs Virginia, we had John Ross, who isn’t playing in the finals and he is someone who has played cricket at a higher level but never professionally. He has played equivalent to Ranji Level cricket in Jamaica. You have to understand, most Ranji Level players and Jamaican domestic cricketers don’t make much money. They are not professional cricketers. But yes, they possess a higher skill level than most of us weekend cricketers.

And I find this hostility towards “outside players” amusing. I equate it to those nativists who decry all those immigrants coming to America and taking away the jobs from the locals. I equate it to those college students who cry that they couldn’t get into a particular university because foreign students took those seats.

Make no mistake, WCL provides everyone the ability to play in the environment they are comfortable in. The Premier Division is the highest level that we have. Teams aspire to play in it because they want to play at the highest level possible against the best players possible. If players only want to play against other local players, they can play in D1 and D2 where an overwhelming number of teams are comprised of local players only. The very reason they want to play in PD is because they want to experience the highest level of competition possible. Teams like Virginia, Tigers, Titans, Zolon facilitate that. This is no different than students applying to Ivy League schools where they get to compete against the best and the brightest from around the world.

And finally, let me ask this question and try to answer it honestly to yourself. How many PD teams if offered a sum of money, and asked “Please use this to make yourself better and more competitive” will refuse that money and say “No. We will not take this money as we want to be 100 percent local.”

We are proud of what we are, and will continue to evolve and wouldn’t want to trade places with any other team in the league.

 

And finally, how many teams in this league are sporting enough to allow people to write and publish things on their websites that are critical of their team? We do it all the time and embrace all viewpoints. That is what tolerance and sportsmanship is all about.


 

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