Semifinals and finals of Cricket League of Iowa scheduled for next two weekends
By Matt “It’s MillerTime” Miller
For MLB fans, the hunt for October is quickly approaching as teams position themselves for a deep postseason run. And while baseball is known as “America’s Favorite Pastime,” a sport similar in nature — cricket — has transcended cultures and is being played in the United States and in Iowa more than many realize.
“There’s been quite an influx of cricket clubs across the country, and I’m very pleased that people have taken up the sport in Iowa,” said Sashank Ganti, president of the Cricket League of Iowa (CLIA), which formed in 2003. “Cricket will never reach the level of baseball and other sports in the United States, but it’s a sport that still has a strong following.”
The origins of cricket are sketchy — some say it was created in what is now Punjab, India, while others agree that the sport was developed and became popular during the height of the British Empire. Today, the sport is most popular among immigrants or those with immigrant descent from nations like India, Jamaica and Pakistan. Currently, there are seven teams that make up the CLIA, with four teams located in Des Moines. Others are located at Iowa State University, Cedar Rapids and Omaha, Neb. Long before cricket’s stable presence at Holiday Park in West Des Moines, clubs like the Knights Cricket Club would travel to Omaha each Saturday to play opponents, often playing doubleheaders in the summer heat.
“For Des Moines to have four teams, it says a lot about the enthusiasm for the sport,” said Varun Bhatt, who played cricket for the past 20 years, including two years with the Knights. “Through its ups and downs, the support for the sport has been tremendous.”
Cricket is similar to baseball, but key differences help distinguish it as what many believe is the most popular sport in the world. Cricket has two teams with 11 players each, with the goal of each team scoring more runs than its opponents. There are two bases, instead of four, in the middle of the field spread 66 feet apart. Scoring takes place when a batter or “batsman” hits the ball, decides to run and must run safely between the two bases. Once across from base to the opposite is a “single” and scores one run; there and back is a “double” worth two runs and so forth. A hit that reaches the fence scores four runs, and a hit that lands over the fence is a “sixer” worth six runs. One of the major differences between baseball and cricket is the length of the game — cricket games can last up to several hours, if not days, in competition. It’s not uncommon for teams to score 200 to 300 runs each.
“Cricket is a team sport that requires various talents to compete,” said Uptal Patell, who plays for the Iowa Bulls Cricket Club in Des Moines. “One does not have to be good at everything to be good at this sport.”
While Patell believes many players will pick the game up quickly, Ganti says a lot of strategy goes into cricket.
“It’s a highly technical game,” he said. “There’s a lot of emphasis on defense, but it’s important to score runs when you’re at bat. Cricket is fun and competitive because there are so many techniques and strategies that people use.”
As cricket continues to build a reputation in Iowa, followers believe the sport has made a home in the heartland.
“Des Moines was the birthplace for the Cricket League of Iowa, so that proves that the sport is alive and will continue to grow for years to come.” CV
caption: Sashank Ganti, president of the Cricket League of Iowa, says scoring runs while up to bat is critical to winning in cricket. CV