Insight News

Dec 20th

Notable cricket names come to town

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cirkcet2The names, Findlay, McLean and Allen may not mean much to fans of Puckett or Winfield, but in the cricketing world they are among the recognizable success stories in their sport. From a cricketing standpoint, it’s exciting news that these three former members of past West Indies Cricket teams are attending this weekend’s USA Cricket Invitational at Bryn Mawr Park in Minneapolis.

Saturday, Sept. 4-6,  the Minnesota International Cricket Club and Cavaliers Cricket Club will host ten teams from Canada and several US cities. The event, open to the public, is the longest, continuously running cricket tournament in the USA. Additionally, Mike Findlay, Nixon McLean and Ian Allen will hold clinics for local cricketers and others interested in learning the game.

Though it isn’t considered to be a “banana republic,” in the derogatory sense of the word, the tiny island nation of St. Vincent and the Grenadines used to be among the biggest producers of bananas in the Caribbean. This is also the nation that produced Findlay, McLean and Allen who would go on to represent not only their nation, but the entire West Indies, at cricket championships around the world.

cricket1“In my youth, in the village setting, cricket was the game,” said Findlay, 65, now enjoying his retirement from the game in St. Vincent. Cricket was a school sport for him and his uncle taught cricket at a local elementary school. In the days before television, Findlay recalls awakening in the pre-dawn hours to listen to game coverage on shortwave radio, while the West Indies team played in New Zealand. At that time it was, “A way of life,” said Findlay, noting that today’s youngsters are increasingly eschewing cricket for soccer. In his village with its numerous diehard cricket fans, Findlay played for his school then for his village, Troumaca, and later on for the region.

Representing the Islands

Tapped to play on the West Indies team in 1969, Findlay was a bundle of nerves in the moments before his first Test Cricket match at the revered Lords Cricket Ground in England. “It was such a proud moment for me to wear the colors for the small islands. I felt I had to leave a good impression. I didn’t allow it to affect me but I felt the weight,” said Findlay, who worked in the banana industry as well as in journalism for the Associated Press, BBC and Caribbean News Agency, after leaving cricket.

Nixon McLean who has brothers named Reagan and Kissinger, also recalls a similar cricket path. Except that while Findlay was a wicket-keeper, McLean was known for his bowling. “In cricket you either want to be a fast-bowler or a good batsman. You wanted to be a Vivi Richards,” said McLean in reference to Sir Isaac Vivian Alexander Richards from Antigua, who is one of the top names in the annals of world cricket.

“I had a personal preference for fast-bowling (as opposed to spin bowling), because I like hitting people in the head,” said McLean with a laugh, adding, “I’m still over the moon that I had the opportunity.” He noted that a fast-bowler is a destructive force. “No batter wants to be your friend except those on your own team.” But such bowling, in which height is an advantage, is physically demanding, leaving McLean with a plethora of aches and pains in his shoulders, back, ankles and knees. “But the personal satisfaction from playing is still worth it,” he said.

During the weekend-long tournament, Findlay said, “We hope to impart some of our knowledge to the U.S. and Canadian cricketers. The game with all its intricacies is more than your ability as a cricketer,” he continued. He wants the local cricketers to know that all things are possible and just because cricket is not yet the main sport here, “you should not allow that fact to deter you.”

McLean, who in his retirement from the game continues coaching, along with “a little bit of relaxing on the beach,” believes it is important for young people to participate in a sport. Over the weekend he will facilitate a bowling clinic along with Ian Allen who also enjoyed a fulfilling cricket career.

Leaders of the MICC-Cavaliers club are hoping to attract a crowd of cricket players and fans at the clinics and games. All are invited to a post-game dance to help fund the event.  It will be held at the downtown Minneapolis Hilton hotel on Saturday evening, September 5. Even those who lack excessive enthusiasm for the game are invited to join in the fun.

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Pauline Chandra is a Twin Cities freelance writer who previously reported on education and a range of subjects for Southwest Newspapers.

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