Representing Canada with distinction and having success at the club level before retirement, Desmond Chumney and Sunil Dhaniram are now relishing the transition from hard ball to the informal soft ball version which is extremely popular in the Greater Toronto Area.
They are members of Our Own Sports Club, which defeated a team representing the touring Guyana Floodlights Softball Cricket Association by five wickets in the final of the Ontario Masters Softball Cricket Clubs (OMSCC)-organized inaugural Toronto Cup 1 three-day 20-overs tournament in Scarborough last weekend.
Chumney, 47, played a huge role in his team’s win, scoring 36 in the championship game in front of a large crowd at the University of Toronto sports ground.
“This is fun,” said Kittitian-born Chumney, who migrated in 1989 and represented Canada at the 2003 and 2007 World Cups before closing his Toronto & District Cricket League (TDCA) career seven years ago. “We played wind ball in St. Kitts and I started to play soft ball about a decade ago because I have many Guyanese friends who play the sport. It’s also good to come out and be among some of the guys that I played with at the club level and also for Canada.”
The 1996 TDCA Cricketer of the Year for his outstanding all-round performance with bat and ball (733 runs at an average of 52.36 and 23 wickets at a cost of 12.48), Chumney said soft ball cricket is much more challenging than playing with the harder ball.
“With the hard ball, you play on prepared surfaces that allow you to judge the height of the ball and play accordingly,” said Chumney, who was recruited to come to Canada by former Lion Hearts medium pacer Winston Reid, who resides in Jamaica. “With soft ball, you just throw up stumps on unprepared surfaces where the ball comes through slower and the bounce is unpredictable.”
Dropped three times before reaching 19 in the final, Dhaniram – in his first season with Our Own Sports Club – said his approach to both versions of the game is the same.
“I just go out there and bat the same way as I did when I played hard ball,” he said. “The only bit of concern is that the white ball we are playing with this weekend is much heavier and harder than the red and yellow Supreme ones we use in our soft ball leagues. As a result, the bounce is different and you have to look out for that.”
A useful middle order batsman and effective orthodox spinner, the left-handed Dhaniram played for Guyana in the early 1980s before migrating to Canada. He made his national debut in 2004 and was Canada’s leading batsman and most productive bowler in the 2007 World Cup in the West Indies.
Dhaniram averaged 81 in three matches and took four wickets, including the prize scalp of then world top-ranked One-Day International batsman Kevin Pietersen of England, who he deceived with a slower delivery that resulted in the bowler gleefully accepting the sharp return catch. He was selected in Cricinfo’s Best 11 from the Associate countries to have shone brightly in the Caribbean World Cup. Dhaniram captained Canada in Intercontinental Cup match games against Kenya and Namibia in October 2007 when regular skipper Ashish Bagai was ruled out because of work commitments.
Overall, Dhaniram scored 915 runs (av. 24.72) and claimed 41 wickets (av. 30.24) in 44 One-Day Internationals and 1444 runs (av. 33.58) and picked up 38 wickets (27.89) in 32 first-class contests. He was a member of a TDCA championship team for the first time in 17 years in 2008 when Cavaliers captured the Elite crown.
The 46-year-old was with Cavaliers and Vikings teams that suffered heart-breaking losses to Yorkshire in 2006 and Centurions the previous year.
Exiting the TDCA in 2010, Dhaniram played two seasons with Guyana Sports of the OMSCC league before joining Our Own Sports Club, whose 55-game unbeaten record over three years was broken two weeks ago.
Two 44-year-old players were allowed to play in the eight-team Over-45 Masters tournament that included two sides from Guyana comprising mainly entrepreneurs and three from New York. One of the 44-year-olds, former Guyana Under-19 vice-captain Troy Gobin, won the Finals Man of the Match Award for his game-high 43 not out in his team’s total of 132-5 in 19.1 overs.
The winning team was rewarded with a trophy and cash prize of US$2,500.
Ricky Deonarine was the top scorer for the losing Guyana Floodlights side which reached 128-8 in their allotted 20 overs. He contributed 42.
In the six-team open competition, New York Enforcers secured the US$3,000 cash prize with an easy seven-wicket win over Dant, a local club side led by former Guyana all-rounder Damodar Daesrath, who scored 85 in the semi-final.
Responding to Dant’s 86 in 17.4 overs, the New Yorkers reached the required target in the 15th over for the loss of seven wickets.
Ramesh Sunich, the owner of Guyana’s Trophy Stall, donated the trophies and medals and his daughter, Emma Sunich – who resides in the Greater Toronto Area – presented the trophies to the winning teams.