Cricket is anything but silly for Windies

The Windies cricket club is looking for a few good batsmen. Maybe a silly mid-off or two as well.

Representatives from the Coquitlam cricketers will be among more than 20 local sports associations and clubs pitching their game at the Coquitlam Sports Fair being held Saturday at the Pinetree community centre (1260 Pinetree Way). The free event is part of the city’s Coquitlam in Bloom initiative that this year is shining a spotlight on community sport and the people who make it happen.

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Windies’ veteran Louie Sutherland said the club is reaching out to attract new, younger players as longtimers step to the sidelines. That includes kids for its Superstrikers youth program. It’s comprised of kanga cricket, which uses plastic bats and a softer ball, for boys and girls aged six to 13, and regulation hardball cricket for kids up to 18 years old.

“The only way we can sustain ourselves is to recruit the young kids,” Sutherland said.

The Windies club was borne about 30 years ago from a merger of the Surrey-based Carib cricket club and the Wescan cricket club that played out of Mackin Park in Coquitlam. Most of its players at the time were from Caribbean nations like Trinidad, Antigua, Barbados, Jamaica and St. Vincent. But over the years, Sutherland said, the club’s membership of 65 players have diversified to include representatives from almost all the cricket-playing countries in the British Commonwealth. Some are even first or second-generation Canadians getting in touch with their cultural roots, or just intrigued by the sport.

“It doesn’t matter where you come from, you can get together as a team,” said another Windies’ cricketer, Patrick Davey. “It’s probably one of the most international games you have right now.”

That can make for a colourful and lively day on the pitch and the sidelines.

Sutherland said a cricket match is as much a cultural gathering as a sporting event.

“The camaraderie is wonderful,” he said. “It’s a way of life.”

“It’s very social,” Davey said. “It’s not just the guys on the field, it’s about hanging out on the sidelines.”

There, players from both teams waiting their turn on the pitch, as well as friends, family and fans, will offer encouragement and cheer a good run at the wickets or spectacular catch in the field for teammates and opponents alike.

While the rules of cricket might seem obscure and esoteric to the casual observer, and the flow of play looks relaxed, Sutherland said the sport is really comprised of two elements: batters trying to score by hitting the hard leather ball out of the reach of fielders and those fielders doing whatever they can to prevent that from happening.

It’s harder, and more challenging, than it sounds.

A bowler can hurl the ball at the batsman at 130 kph and that ball can leave the bat at more than 140 kph. Fielders scattered about the expansive round pitch then have to try to play the speeding ball with their bare hands.

It takes speed, agility, hand-eye coordination and a soft touch to cushion catches, Davey said, especially when some of those fielders might be positioned only metres from the batsman.

“You have to be tuned in at all times because one catch can change the game,” Sutherland said. “The key is to keep focussed.”

That’s not always easy when a test match can run for days, although most local cricket clubs play 50/50 matches that don’t last longer than a day, ending when one team has bowled 50 overs.

To combat boredom and complacency, players routinely change positions, rotating from the distant long-off position to the more high-stakes’ silly mid-off or silly mid-on spots which are nearer the batter and require taut nerves and lightning reflexes.

“They’re called ‘silly’ because you’re silly to be standing so close to the batter,” Sutherland said.

• The Coquitlam Sports Fair runs from 1 to 3 p.m. and will feature representatives from sports like field hockey, rugby, softball and baseball, football, water polo, Special Olympics, tennis, basketball, lawn bowling, ringette and underwater hockey. Visitors can learn about the sports and local leagues, and even try some of them out.

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