By Charles Baksh
Eighteen years ago, I survived triple bypass surgery, but when the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame called to let me know I was being inducted into the hall as a cricket athlete, I almost had another heart attack.
A surprise and honor of a lifetime.
At 81 years of age, I have so much to be grateful for, I wish that all young kids would have the opportunities that I did in my life. And looking back, many of those opportunities were because of cricket.
I grew up in Trinidad and was the last of nine children, seven brothers and one sister. My father died when I was four years old and as a result, we experienced many difficult challenges during my childhood. My mother was unable to read or write but what she lacked in literacy she made up for in her commitment to education. All of her children completed school and I am proud to say all of her kids finished school with individual and academic success.
We were a very poor family due to the circumstances, so playing the sport of cricket was a real challenge. We could not afford to have real bats or balls so my brother and I would use branches from coconut trees and other trees. We would try to shape them as bats, and for balls, we used the thread spools from village tailors. As a result, our hands, feet, and legs were damaged without protective equipment. But we didn’t care.
As for toys? Not a chance. We didn’t have the money so we would make toys with sardine cans that we would pull on a string as if it were a truck. We found ways to make life fun at that age, even though we didn’t have money.
I left for Trinidad in 1959 when I was 21 years old and ended up in Winnipeg, Manitoba. I wasn’t even sure if cricket was a sport played in Canada. A day after I arrived, I went to Assiniboine Park and to my surprise cricket was being played. The sport became my lifeline.
I played cricket locally, provincially, nationally and internationally for decades and occupied every role from captain to treasurer to president. I have so many highlights in my cricket career from playing on the Canada Cricket Team in the 1960’s and 1970’s to representing Manitoba in Junior Championships and across the country to being involved in cricket from 1960 until I retired in 1986. Oh, and I’ll never forget being invited to Buckingham Palace to meet Queen Elizabeth and Princess Anne for cocktails in 1979. Still makes me smile to think about it.
It was so scary to show up in a new country by myself, but what helped me through was sport. I own my life to sport and I shudder to think what would have happened if I didn’t have cricket in my life when I was in Trinidad. Even though we were poor, poverty didn’t stop me from doing the things I wanted in my life, and I hope other kids know that too.
Here in Winnipeg, cricket is being introduced and played in schools so it’s not just for kids not from Canada, it’s for all kids. It’s great because once you are involved in a sport, it does keep you away from all the negative stuff. You get involved in something that’s positive, it keeps you active and it gives you a community.
Cricket has given me everything. I hope that whether you are an athlete or a parent, you’ll keep strong in your sports. It made all the difference for me, I know it can for you.