By Frederick Halley
WHEN the Orlando International softball tournament bowls off next Friday, it will mark a significant milestone for Guyanese-born self-made commentator Onkar Singh.
In 2000, exactly 20 years ago, at the same venue, Singh “accidentally” ventured into a career which has since branded him as a cricket commentator with a difference.
Singh is not heard on radio or television but his on-the-spot coverage of softball cricket has caught the attention of many over the past 20 years, prompting him to describe himself as “the pioneer of on-field coverage”.
Relating how it all started, Singh told Chronicle Sport that it was all accidental. He recalled that his team New York X1, were eliminated from the 2000 World Cup softball tournament in Florida and while on the sidelines of the final, he jokingly took the microphone to describe the action on the field of play.
Singh explained that after a few minutes, he ceased the commentary but upon doing so was accosted by former Guyana and West Indies player Faoud Bacchus as to why he had stopped. This, according to Singh, inspired and prompted him to continue; signalling the start of what is still a rewarding part-time career.
Singh, who idolises fellow Guyanese commentator Joseph ‘Reds’ Perreira, has been a constant performer mostly at international softball games in New York and Florida and has also featured at the Guyana Softball Cup in his homeland.
Singh, who now resides in Albany, New York, is however not confined to softball and has also done some hardball matches in North America, including the West Indies Legends versus New York Legends which featured former players like Alvin Kallicharran, Gordon Greenidge, Gus Logie, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Pedro Collins and Bacchus.
Pointing out why he’s an ardent fan of Perreira and patterns himself after the legendary Guyanese commentator, Singh said that his (Perreira) description of on-field plays is unmatched.
Prior to migrating to New York in 1996, Singh was no slouch in the cricket arena in Guyana, having represented Georgetown and subsequently Demerara in the Inter-county Under-19 tournament, playing alongside the likes of former West Indies player Carl Hooper, former Guyana wickerkeeper Sheik Mohamed, fast bowler Linden Fraser, Shivnauth Seeram and Anil Solomon, among others.
His role in the team was that of an off-spinning all-rounder.
Singh also spent three years in Trinidad and Tobago, representing Crampton Cricket Club in the first division competition where his teammates included former West indies players Ian Bishop and Phil Simmons.
In 1989, Singh turned his attention fully to softball cricket, playing exclusively for Durban Cricket Club alongside Wayne Jones and the late Benegal Singh – two players he regards as the most complete batsmen in softball cricket. He rates a nine-wicket haul and an innings of 49 not out among his best performances for Durban.
Work commitments have severely curtailed his ability to play softball cricket in New York but Singh nevertheless still competes in the Over-40 division occasionally. He previously played for Lords Cricket Club in Queens, New York and he is credited with slamming two centuries and several half-centuries. He also skippered the Demerara (New York) Inter-county team to three consecutive championships.
Born and raised in Campbellville, Greater Georgetown, Singh attended Redeemer Lutheran School, and Indian Education Trust College which was subsequently renamed Richard Ishmael Secondary School.