10 Top cricketer

10 – Ami Banerjee

WHEN Andy Biggins took over the Island cricket captaincy he must have known he was onto a good thing. He would have only had to look across the dressing room to his new Optimists teammate Ami Banerjee to realise that he had a wonderfully talented new weapon in the bid to end a sorry run of inter-insular defeats against the reds. And that is just how it transpired. The Bengali’s six inter-insular matches produced five Guernsey wins and he left the island with something of legendary status. Biggins will have only had to investigate the new Beechwood cricket coach’s CV to realise he was going to have someone special to work with. The Calcutta-born Amitava Banerjee was 32 and in his prime when he set foot in Guernsey. The right-arm medium-fast bowler and classy top-order batsman had played four first-class matches in his native India, all for Bengal in the Ranji Trophy. In that short career at the top of the Indian game he scored 92 runs, with a top score of 48. He did not bowl a ball in the Ranji Trophy or one List A game, but his talent was such that he quickly became one of Guernsey’s finest bowlers.

On inter-insular debut, coming on first change at Grainville, he took 2 for 30 from 13 accurate overs, this after a debut-day 50 from 69 balls. A year later he hit 46 and, taking the new ball, 1 for 28 from 15 zingy overs. In 2004, it was 2 for 23 from 10 overs and a mere 13 with the bat, Ami Banerjee could ramp up his pace when bowling in big games and after an unspectacular 2005 effort he bounced back with 31 and 4 for 25 in 2006. Twice man of the match against Jersey, he also became a key performer in the island’s ICC campaigns. One of his most memorable knocks in ICC Europe Division Two was his 84 in an otherwise disappointing Guernsey batting display against Germany in Scotland in 2006. But arguably his finest innings of his time on-island, which also coincided with Optimists domination of weekend cricket, was an undefeated 107 for a strong GCB XI against the Dutch Flamingo tourists at KGV.

In 2006 he scored 61 against the MCC in a high scoring game at KGV. The MCC amassed 305 for 4 wickets and in a nail-biting finish Guernsey ended just 8 runs short at 297 for 8.

Guersey innings

J Frith                                         b Bukhari               0

+M Oliver     c de Bruin              b Mol                      71

A Banerjee   not out                                                 107

G H Smit      c Van Ierschot        b Schoonheim        37

*S Le Prevost                             b Bukhari               1

J Meades      not out                                                 17

A Biggins, G Rich, P Le Hegarat, B Queripel, K Moherndl dnb

Extras          (b0, lb1, w23, nb2)                              26

Total            (for 4 wickets in 50 overs)                   259

Flamingo bowling

Bukhari 10-1-44-2, Ghaznavi 9-0-33-0, Mol 10-0-67-1, Schoonheim 8-0-36-1, Heggelman 2-0-17-0, Stokkers  8-1-37-0, Seelaar 3-0-24-0

Flamingo innings

*T de Grooth          c Le Hegarat           b Moherndl             19

M Van Ierschot       c Le Hegarat           b Banerjee             20

+S de Bruin           c Oliver                  b Banerjee             3

G Mol                     c Smit                    b Rich                     7

M Bukhari               c Smit                    b Rich                     15

H Seelaar               lbw                         b Frith                    22

L Stokkers              c Le Prevost           b Rich                     6

J Schoonheim         st Oliver                 b Rich                     6

D Van Everdingen c Le Prevost           b Frith                    4

T Heggelman          not out                                                 8

M Ghaznavi            c Oliver                  b Queripel              4

Extras          (b5, lb4, w11, nb1)                                        21

Total            (in 45 overs)                                                  135

Guernsey bowling

Queripel       7-1-25-1, Le Hegarat   5-1-12-0, Banerjee   6-1-8-2, Moherndl   7-0-22-1, Frith  10-0-31-2, Rich  10-1-28-4

A lively Dutch seamer, Muassar Bukhara, had claimed the prize wicket of Jeremy Frith in the first over, but the little master stood firm as he provided the cornerstone to a decent total. Not satisfied, he took three top-four wickets as the GCB won by 124 runs. Twice he took half-centuries off the visiting MCC.

Twice weekend player of the year – in 2002 and 2005 – he was much loved across island cricket for his skills, civility and gentle nature which masked a fiercely competitive spirit. Biggins reckoned his former colleague to be the best all-rounder he had ever played with and recalled some remarkable performances from the Indian. ‘There was an amazing slip catch to get rid of Steve Carlyon off Tim Duke – the best I’ve seen – and there was one 14-over spell on the bounce where he kept his jumper on and bowled so accurately that Jersey were going at less than one an over. Matt Hague couldn’t score. He tied them down in knots. Ami was so accurate and for a captain he was a joy.’ Yet, for all that, Biggins reckoned he cruised through much of his time playing on island. ‘We only saw the best of him on a couple of occasions when he had to play well. He was one of those who always had another gear.’ These days he is head of cricket at Hampton School.