The going wasn’t easy for the home team late Sunday afternoon at Schjang Ballpark on St. Croix.
The St. Croix cricketers were facing the defending champions of the Leeward Islands Masters Cricket 20/20, and Nevis was dominating in the early going. St. Croix has finished second on two occasions, but Nevis has won the tournament for years.
It looked like St. Croix would be second once again, and the 800 people in the bleachers and around the field were quiet.
But that all changed. Suddenly it became clear that Nevis might not get the runs it needed to win on its last at bat. One young fan was blowing a charge on a long green horn; women were dancing on the sidelines. The St. Croix team won in the last over by six runs, bringing home its first championship trophy in the 18 years of the tournament, prompting a jubilant a victory lap. The final score was St. Croix 110, Nevis 104.
“Oh my God! We won,” said Monica Robinson, public information officer for Veterans Cricket Club of St. Croix. “This is fantastic!”
Five teams participated in the tournament, which began on Friday on the field just west of Christiansted.
Along with St. Croix and Nevis, participating teams came from St. Thomas, St. Kitts, and St. Martin. Two matches were played on Friday and three on Sunday. Three matches had been scheduled for Sunday, but because of the morning rain only the championship match could be played.
The event, fully funded by players themselves, was hosted by the Veterans Cricket Club of St. Croix. St. Croix has a cricket league consisting of five teams. They play six months a year at the field by the drive-in.
Jean Baptiste, president of the St. Croix Veterans Club, said even a second place finish would have been something St. Croix fans could be proud of, since St. Croix had no players on its team that played on major teams such as the Leeward Islands or West Indies team, while its competitors did.
Baptiste said that keeping cricket alive on St. Croix is a struggle. He said the sport receives no support from the government and has no help from business sponsors.
The Leeward Islands Masters Cricket Association was formed in 1998. It started having annual tournaments in 2002. The last time it had a tournament on St. Croix was 2011.
Besides the tournament, the association helps with “good-will tours,” in which island teams travel to one or two other islands and even Florida to play. Cricketers Masters must be older than 40 to participate. Robinson said that St. Thomas will probably host the 2017 match.
Robinson was happy that so many people came out to support the home team even with the rain putting a damper on the event. She added the tournament brought people to St. Croix, and they stayed at Club Comanche, Company House Hotel, Frederiksted Hotel and Rooftops.
Though it is the second most popular sport in the world, cricket is a quintessentially British game, with its own language, rituals and style. That British influence makes it a hard sell in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Robinson said. But enthusiasts are trying to grow the sport. There is Kiddie Cricket on St. Croix for children from ages seven to thirteen. The children practice on Saturdays at Schjang Ballpark, weather permitting.
Robinson said they would like to find corporate sponsors and financial assistance. She added the players pay their own way to other islands for tournaments.
Information about cricket on St. Croix can be found and donations to the Veterans Cricket Club made on the club’s Facebook page.