A Worldly Pitch

A $60 million park may bring Broward into the bigs of the world's second most popular sport

When the plumbing jobs ran out, he helped build a Hess oil refinery. The stint in New York "took ten years of my cricketing life away," he says, but the Virgin Islands revered cricket. Although he never was able to crack the elite test match teams, he played high-level cricket, traveling throughout the islands, meeting prime ministers and governors, and losing wages when he missed work to do so. When the refinery was finished in 1995, Bascus moved to Lauderhill, got his green card, and requested time for cricket from his first job with a Boca Raton plumbing company.

"A few of the guys were saying, 'You're going to take off to play your girly-girly game in your whites and drink some tea?'" he recalls. "They made some fun of me, man."

At home, Bascus has two dozen cricket trophies, most of which date to the late '90s. The past couple of years have been thinner. Skills erode, after all. Bascus has eight kids in New York, the Virgin Islands, and Florida ("I'm a true island boy," he says sheepishly) and a girlfriend. He expects to eventually return to Antigua, where he'll likely grow sweet potatoes and bananas in his backyard and, of course, play cricket.

The Leeward Islands players (above) display their cricket whites -- it is a gentleman's game, after all -- before Jarvis Francis and Boswell Jeffers, at right, chow down on seasoned rice.
Colby Katz
The Leeward Islands players (above) display their cricket whites -- it is a gentleman's game, after all -- before Jarvis Francis and Boswell Jeffers, at right, chow down on seasoned rice.

"Retirement is nowhere in the Bible, not even for work," he says. "So why would I retire from my sport?"

Bascus and Peter Anthony, Hamish's cousin, have finally found Leeward's expected rhythm. The two batters take turns belting balls -- Peter to the playground for four runs, Bascus straight into the flat for another, Peter a tee shot over the barbed wire fence, then another through the wire -- and by the 29th over, Leeward has 120 runs to 245 for Barbados. At the end of a tense match, the painful reductive math of the over system takes control. Two countdowns begin: the balls remaining and the runs needed. After a slow start, the Leeward players need to close with about 12 per over, and they're finally starting to get it.

"Kahnt ketch a fookin' coold," someone yells at a bumbling Barbados fielder.

You could sell this. Any baseball-bred, football-fed American can feel the bristles on this moment. What cricket contains, inherently, is a chase. The second team to bat is always behind, and if it pulls ahead by one run, the game stops. This is where crickehtmehnia blossoms for people like Dale Holiness, CEO of All Broward Realty, who at 17 years old moved from Jamaica to New York and who now, at 46, sees World Cup as a landmark for Caribbean culture in South Florida.

"It's a powerful statement that you are a part of this culture," says Holiness, who by the time of this printing will know whether he has been elected a Lauderhill city commissioner. "And that while you may have some difference, you fit in, that the culture is embracing enough to pick up cricket, which they may not understand.

"When I came, I expected -- you could probably say Utopia, more or less. And it's not, but it is a great place, and the opportunities are what draw people here. When people go back to the islands, they often exaggerate their accomplishments, the cars they drive, and the homes they live in. And you figure, wow, you're doing so great. You come and you think you get all of that, and it's easy. But it's hard work. Because people come here expecting to do something with their lives, they dedicate themselves to that. With or without cricket to play."

The Leeward players, at least, dedicate themselves to cricket. They practice every Tuesday and Thursday evening in the park just east of Lauderhill's City Hall, welcoming anyone who cares to join them. But an understanding of the jargon is critical. Some key terms:

Monkey: A foolish person worthy of ridicule.

Monkey man: See "Monkey."

Monkey team: An entire team of monkeys.

Catch him!: What everyone yells when a batter makes contact with the tennis balls they bowl at practice, even if the ball is hit over two fences into the adjacent vacant lot.

The houses nearest the field are protected by a 20-foot net at the fence, but during games, balls sometimes clear the net, explaining why Steven Perkins, whose house is on the other side, leaves his hurricane shutters up at odd times. The Florida Turnpike howls just beyond a little gulley on the east side of the field, and it is said that at least a couple of balls have been walloped there, clacking across the tollway like a pool ball on a barroom floor.

No one for Leeward pounds the pellet better than Hamish. After a Barbados fielder finally catches Peter away from the wicket, Hamish enters and jacks six-run shots over a high fence and through the tree's leaves. Under the shadow of his maroon helmet, against his dark skin, only a luminescent white smile is visible. Bascus continues a water torture of singles. The two batters rack up a gaudy 24 runs in the 31st over, and it's a contest again.

Hamish is in a groove, unstoppable, unflappable. He clips a double behind him, then -- ah, a high flare straight ahead! Too short! Caught! The Barbados fielders hug. Hamish strides off the field, with 183 runs on the board in the 35th over.

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