Cricket has become an unlikely saviour for a bunch of Los Angeles gangsters who have turned to the game for salvation from violence.
This unusual team is all set to tour Australia next month. This 12 unlikely cricketers from Compton, in Los Angeles County, began their cricketing journey in a parking lot with trash cans for stumps more than a decade ago, according to a feature in the Times, London.
Now they will take on Aussie teams in Melbourne and Sydney.
The Compton Cricket Club, known as The Homies and The Popz, have already toured England thrice, and even crossed swords with cricket legend Shane Warne at Lord's.
'I guess you could say we switched our guns for bats," a formerly convicted mechanic said. 'I probably woulda ended up in jail if I didn't play cricket. Or worse. But now we're making cricket history. I'm looking forward to Australia.'
The team came into being in 1995 when Katy Haber, a British producer and club co-founder, was secretary for the British Academy of Film and Television Arts in Los Angeles cricket team. She got a call from the captain of the Beverly Hills Cricket Club (consisting largely of British expats), who was looking for an 11th man. She asked her friend Ted Hayes, a social campaigner and homeless activist.
Ted did not know what cricket was and Haber explained: It's the same as baseball, but instead of running in circles you run up and down.'
Hayes was soon hooked on and wanted to start a cricket team in Compton. The duo soon hired expat cricketers to help train the gangsters.
He himself is a fast bowler. 'When I played my first game, I saw the difference between soccer, basketball, baseball, tennis, which all have sportsmanship rules, but don't have an etiquette like cricket. In cricket, you don't argue with the umpire, you don't show dissent, you don't ridicule your opponents, or your team-mates if they make a mistake. Cricket teaches you to play the game in a respectful manner. It teaches you discipline. And I believe that when the players go beyond the boundary, they live a better life with their family, their siblings, the police.'
A plumber who was in and out of juvenile prison, said of cricket: 'At first I wasn't so sure. I remember thinking it sucks that you've got to give all authority to the umpire, because what if he messes up? I was like you think I'm gonna bow down to him and do whatever he says? Yeah right. But after a while you think about it. And it helps to use those rules in real life, because in real life you go through so many things. You can't go arguing and fighting about every bad decision that's made. You gotta learn to live with it sometimes.'