The sprawl for the new bat and ball: Cricket captures Irvine hearts

Arya Bhattacharjee, Staff Writer

Almost every high school in Irvine sees participation in all major sports, whether it be in a  club or on a competitive high school team. Yet, some sports seem to go under the radar, and not just niche and obscure sports. Cricket, while extremely popular in the Eastern Hemisphere, has never garnered much attention in America. For that matter, the Irvine Cricket Club (ICC) spearheads the introduction of a new sport to the already plentiful catalog of Irvine sports.

Yet even in light of that, the Irvine Cricket Club (ICC) have been working to bring the sport of cricket to the attention of many Irvine residents, hoping to expand the game through the expansion of leagues, teams and workouts designed to teach the complex game of cricket in simple steps.

As of right now, the ICC is the only major club in the county that plays cricket competitively, with a few smaller clubs such as the Orange County Cricket Association also allowing for competitive games among casual fans, with little to no stakes, primarily serving as a development league for aspiring players. Players in the ICC compete in the Irvine Cricket League (ICL) which also hosts the Irvine Cricket Mini League, an entry-level league for students. The ICL hosts miniature skill camps for people to develop their skills, helping them eventually progress to making an ICC’s team 11 man roster. However, even though the ICL is open to all Irvine residents, a majority of the players are generally those of foreign descent, where the game has taken off for the greater part of three centuries.

“Being able to tell people that I play a ‘foreign’ sport is interesting because of the mixed opinions you can receive,” junior Kanishk Hari said. “Americans like to think of cricket as the Indian counterpart to baseball, even though the sport was founded by the British.”

Cricket is similar in concept to baseball, where a batter uses a bat to hit a ball thrown by a bowler, synonymous to a pitcher, as far as possible. In fact, baseball was originally developed in America as a method to further separate from the British, the founders of cricket. However, the rules of the two games could not be more different. In cricket, the batter stands in front of a set of wickets, which the pitcher is supposed to hit with the ball. Unlike baseball, the ball is supposed to hit the ground once after it is pitched before the batter can hit it, allowing for unique techniques such as reverse spins. The game then rotates between two phases, with each team switching between attacking and defending. The attacking team works on getting as many runs as possible, and the team with the most runs at the end of the match wins. At the end of international tournaments, the most coveted circuit of teams in cricket, teams are ranked on a mathematical formula that takes the total score divided by the total matches played. The total score is a ratio of a team’s runs to a team’s wickets lost. The top team is crowned the winner of the tournament.

“As a bowler, the numerous ways you can get a batter out is immensely enjoyable, since there are many techniques to do so,” Hari said. “I personally like to get the batsman out by strategically hitting the stumps of the wickets.”

The lack of cricket in America may come as a surprise to some, as cricket is a world-wide sport with 2.5 billion fans across the globe, compared to baseball’s relatively smaller 500 million fans. This is mostly due to historical issues surrounding the sport, going all the way back to the Civil War and its replacement sport, baseball. An army was much more likely to quickly organize a baseball game on any patch of ground, in comparison to cricket, which demands a clear patch of grass to avoid any advantage on the attacking or defending side. Additionally, cricket test series, cricket’s annual major tournament event, is played for three to five days straight with at least six hours of cricket per day. This slow-paced action caused many Americans to lose interest in the sport, as they sided towards the relatively fast-paced action of baseball.

Currently, while cricket in the United States is slowly beginning to rise again as a dominant sport played by millions, due to the overwhelming immigrant participation, it is still dwarfed compared to other nations.