by Ilina Ewen
photographs by Ray Black III
Chances are, when North Carolinians hear the word cricket, they’re thinking bugs. Not the game of ball, bats, and wickets first played in England in the 16th century, now second only to soccer as the world’s most popular sport. Amazingly, cricket has 120 million players across the world, mostly in former outposts of the British Empire.
Now, they hail from the Triangle, too.
Here, cricket is a sporty thread knitting together the Triangle’s rich immigrant fabric. Players from almost every country that has a national team – including Australia, England, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Guyana, and Barbados – play in the quickly-growing Triangle Cricket League.
The League was formally established in 2010 when 10 founding teams from the Mid-Atlantic Cricket Conference split off to form their own group. The sport’s galloping growth had begun to make it difficult to manage teams all the way from Virginia to South Carolina, and local players decided a local focus was necessary.
One of TCL’s primary objectives is to promote the sport among youth in the community, both those born into cricket families and those who are foreign to the game.
My family is a little bit of both. Until a recent month in India, my 12- and 10-year-old sons’ only exposure to cricket was from the film Million Dollar Arm. But once we landed on Indian soil, they clamored to play the sport themselves. My cricket-fanatic uncle happily indulged the boys, and they quickly caught the bug.
When we came home, we brought with us two prized souvenir cricket bats emblazoned with the signature of revered former Indian cricket captain Sachin Tendulkar, said to be the greatest batsman of all time, and a new sport to fit into our lives.
The league is invested in developing the youth cricket program and is now on its way to establishing a foundation of instruction and competition among children ages 6 to 17. My own sons joined a team and have introduced the sport to neighborhood kids who can be found playing in the park in front of our home. Passersby stop to watch and drivers roll down their windows, exclaiming in awe, “Wow, is that cricket you guys are playing?”
That’s clear when you speak to the people making this sport take root in North Carolina soil. “Cricket provides room for thoughtful strategy or blind faith, for determined resistance or reckless abandon, for focused assault or obdurate defense; but most importantly, it offers a level playing field for all,” says Anirudh Ullal, Secretary of the Triangle Cricket League.
Most players in the Triangle Cricket League played the sport from a young age. In many countries where cricket reigns, neighborhood children play with a shared bat, ball, and rudimentary markings on a makeshift field, much like baseball’s sandlots. That’s why the league is focused on bringing the sport to a new generation here, one without its own cricket tradition. Adults and children both can attend cricket camps and workshops with the league to learn the basics and participate in pick-up games.
Even my Wisconsin-bred husband – who had never heard of cricket growing up – has been bitten by the bug. He’s joining a league too.
Check out trianglecricketleague.org for more information or to join a league (no experience needed). Email the league officers at email@example.com to get more details. See all the league happenings on Facebook at facebook.com/tclcricket.