By Sean Devers
Fifty-eight-year old Sammy Boodhoo was one of the best leg-spinners in Demerara in the late 1980s to the mid-90s at a time when Demerara had a strong First Division system in which the six City teams were joined by East Coast, East Bank and West Demerara.
Boodhoo played for East Coast, while Policeman Gillian Gomes and Desmond Butts who played for the newly promoted GNIC, were the other good leggies plying their trade at that time but Boodhoo, who played for Ogle in East Coast Cricket, suffered more than his fair share of ‘bad luck’ as a budding young cricketer.
“Sunil Gavaskar wrote a book in which he listed his best cricketers and dedicated a chapter to each one of them. I was not surprised when he listed a few cricketers who never represented India despite having the potential to do so, I feel this is a situation that applied to me where playing for Guyana is concerned,” noted Boodhoo.
Boodhoo performed well for the Demerara U-16 and U-19 Schoolboys teams and was invited to the 1978 National U-19 trials. He recounted becoming ill with Jaundice and one year when he was again called to trials for BAT Regional U-19 series in his final year at that level he was forced to miss the trials due to appendicitis.
“Hence, I was so unlucky and that’s how Rafik Khan made the 1979 team,” lamented Boodhoo who never got the chance to represent his County at the U-19 level.
More misfortune was to follow him when he was first invited to senior National trials in 1987. During the fifth game he injured his toe and at that time the East Coast was going through administration problems so he took a break from the game for a while.
Boodhoo was born on January 4, 1962 and grew up in a small village called Industry on the East Coast of Demerara which produced Guyana players the Haniff brothers (Zaheer & Azeemul), and David Harper. He attended the Cummings Lodge Secondary School and excelled in cricket at the Inter-School and Inter-Zone level.
“The Ogle Community Center was just next door. Hence my cricket career started there. As a small boy I remember myself and David Harper were the only two under-16 players who could have merit a place on the senior Ogle team playing Northcote (2nd division) cricket at club level,” said Sammy.
“I played for the1987 East Coast First Division team which was captained by Guyana Wicket-Keeper Sheik Mohamed. It was one of the best teams ever and did really well. Sometime in 1990, Clyde Butt came and captained the East Coast team. I took a lot of wickets and was selected in the senior Inter-County Demerara team and we played against Berbice and won. I took three wickets including Daniram.
I was called to National trials the same year. I was performing well in the trials and from all indications I was a good prospect. I was the only spinner against the likes of Arjune Nandu (who took five wickets from four First-Class matches for Guyana Between 1989 and 1992) who had the most wickets,” added Boodhoo during the time as the Berbice pair Nandu and Mahendra Nagamootoo.
“Unfortunately, I quit the trials when I found that cricket was actually harder inside than outside. That was one of the biggest challenges to me. Being among senior players and not being treated properly was something I could not handle, especially as a youngster coming up.
There were some players who try to get to you psychologically to bring you down. I did not have the mental gut, being young and a little immature. As a result, I just called it quits and that was my biggest regret ever in cricket,” revealed Sammy.
In 1994 Inter-County game against Berbice he had captured three wickets including the wicket of Sudesh Dhaniram who he bowled just when he was well set to build a big innings.
After that he was contracted to a premier league team (Tranzac cricket club) in Canada. Other Guyanese overseas players in the team were Michael Chinsammy and David Fingal. This was 1995 and he was one of the leading wicket takers in the league and helped to save his club from a demotion.
“During this time a lot of Guyana players were playing in Canada. Seeram for Cavaliers, Zaheer Haniff and Glenn Robinson for Victoria park, Mark Burnett for Grace Church. As faith would have it Queens county cricket club from New York was touring Canada.
Their officials saw me bowling in a match. They had some discussion with me after and expressed their willingness to have me for the club the following year. I was taken by surprise when I was issued a visa specifically to play cricket in America. In fact, I was probably one of the first cricketers to have been issued a visa back in 1996 to play cricket in America. My annotation on visa was cricket. I played in America from 1996 to 1998,” said the former East Coast spinner.
In 1998 his father passed away just as the season had started in America.
“I returned home and did not rejoin the team. Instead I took the opportunity to capitalize and consolidate on CJIAC, the popular Lotus restaurant as their general manager until due to family commitments, I quit and settled in New York with my family in 2016,” Boodhoo continued.
“During my cricket stint in America, I found the cricket to be reasonable competitive. There were so many players from all the regions in the Caribbean. In fact, during the 1997 season there was a local red stripe competition organized. The players from their respective countries were selected to play for their country. I was fortunate along with my fellow teammate Rabindranath Seeram from Queens County to play for the Guyana New York red stripe team. I was one of the leading wickets takers in the league and I was selected in front of Derek Kallirichan. I remember bowling to people like Everton Mattis, Richard Stapleton” Boodhoo disclosed.
He said Ramnaresh Sarwan, Sudesh Dhaniram and Shivnarine Chanderpaul are some of the best batsmen he has bowled to.
“Being the leading wicket taker in the First-Division cricket in1992 there were some good match memories for me, 7-40 against DCC, 6 wickets against Malteenoes at Enterprise, 6 wickets against GCC and having the opportunity of dismissing Dhaniram several times in the inter-county matches and Red Stripe trials,” Boodhoo proclaimed.
His most memorable performance was when he captured 5-11 as GNIC were bowled out for 28 which was lowest ever score in local First Division Cricket.
“Some of my other most memorable performances included 7 wickets against DCC with my scalps including Keith Semple, Travis Dowling and Linden Joseph. I also took 6 wickets against GCC at Enmore that included about 7 national players in their team including Andy Jackman, Paul Persaud, Garfield Charles and Richard Jodha.
My memorable overseas moments were against a Trinidadian team named Sims in New York when I took 6 -24, a team that included former Trinidadian players, Boodie, Mangalie, and the Roberts brothers. I think they played for Trinidad some time back. In Canada I was able to bowl 10 overs for 22 runs and win the match for my team Tranzac against one of the best teams called Overseas,” Boodhoo said.
When asked for his thoughts on the West Indies tour to England which starts tomorrow, he said competing will depend on how well our batsmen adapt to conditions.
“To be honest I only catch up to internationally cricket periodically, I don’t have too much time. However, West Indies against England is always challenging in English commissions, the ball swings a lot and all depends how our batsmen adapt, the batsmen need to apply more concentration and bat longer, also our fast bowlers should not try to intermediate too much but try to concentrate on a good line and length,” Boodhoo opined.
He resides in New York, the hardest hit state by the Global pandemic in the United States of America and says the COVID-19 pandemic is a terrible experience.
“Life has been different and not normal with all the preventative measures, truly speaking it is scary. As an essential worker I must be vigilant and careful, hopefully we are praying for a cure long before the vaccine is out,” Boodhoo concluded.
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