Brooklyn (New York, US), July 27 (ANI): Young men of Pakistani and Bangladeshi origin in Brooklyn dream not of playing baseball, but of playing cricket at the national level for the United States-and the New York City Police Department is helping them to realize it through community matches.
"When I lived in my country, my dream was to be a national player. I thought that dream was lost to me when I came to New York, but now I think it is possible," says Korban Ali, 18, from Bangladesh.
Every Tuesday and Wednesday, a group of officers from the NYPD roll out a heavy jute mat, their pitch substitute, on a field in Brooklyn and another in Queens for a Twenty20 competition.
The NYPD cricket league is a huge success story in police-community relations.
The police were successful in engaging the mainly Muslim Arab-speaking communities through a soccer competition, but the department was struggling to reach youths in the South Asian communities and young West Indians.
Then, Police Commissioner, Raymond Kelly, came up with the idea of cricket.
"His concept is the three Cs - crime fighting, counter-terrorism and community relations - and this is the community relations side," says Deputy Inspector Amin Kosseim, who is in charge of special projects.
"We looked for a door to open with the South Asian community. A lot of them play cricket, so it was the perfect sport to partake in," he said.
The officers set about learning the game and recruiting youths aged mainly between 14 and 19 from the Pakistani, Bangladeshi and West Indian communities. They got permits for the fields and set up transport in police vans.
The competition co-ordinator is a 30-year-old policeman born and bred in Brooklyn but with the auspicious name of Jeff Thompson.
Travelling in Europe six years ago he fell in love with Karen from Murwillumbah and that first love led to a second: cricket. "It was part of my learning and absorbing the Australian culture - and getting on with the in-laws," he says.
And, yes, most Australians he meets quickly tell him about his near namesake, Thommo", the legendary Australian fast bowler.
The NYPD decided to go with Twenty20 because the games can be played in about three hours. Thompson designed the NYPD cricket logo, they bought the brightly coloured uniforms emblazoned with NYPD and got cracking.
Last year, their first year, they had six teams and 100 players. This year, they have 10 teams and 170 players, including two girls, and they expect more growth next year.(ANI)