Home to baseball and basketball, cricket is a relative newcomer to the United States. With the arrival of a large number of migrants from South Asia, however, cricket has become a passion amongst the men and youth from former British colonies. On pleasant spring and warm summer weekends, it is not uncommon to see players dressed in whites basking in the joy of a cricket match.
This summer, California Cricket Academy, a Cupertino based non-profit organization is hosting the first ever National Junior Cricket Tournament, co-sponsored by the United States of America Cricket Association. The tournament, to be played in the San Francisco Bay area from June 22-25, has attracted about 15 teams from across the country. The teams will participate in one of the three age groups: Under 15, Under 13 and Under 11. Match rules are similar to those set by the International Cricket Committee. Additionally, California Cricket Academy has also been awarded the right to host this tournament in 2007 and 2008.
"The tournament is a historic milestone for us," commented Hemant and Kinjal Buch, co-founders of the California Cricket Academy.
"We are very excited about the recognition for our academy as well as the opportunity to showcase the game to the diverse Bay area population", they added.
Founded in 2003 with a vision to turn intrigue into interest, interest into passion, and passion into participation, California Cricket Academy has grown from 22 youth cricketers to over 150 in just three years.
Says Ram Varadarajan, the chairman of the tournament committee, "Ours is a grassroots effort to popularize in the United States, a sport that is gentler than most, and inculcates valuable life skills in the youth.
"Growing up with the game in India, I have realized its powerful influence in building team spirit, fairplay, and discipline. My son now shares my passion for cricket, and the game has provided a tremendous opportunity for us to bond. My hope is that our efforts will pioneer a little-league type tournament and propel the United States into becoming a major international cricketing team over the next 5-8 years."
Since 2003, the California Cricket Academy has conducted regular coaching clinics for youth under 15. While most of the academy's members are of South Asian origin, the academy is hopeful that the game will become popular amongst the other communities as well.
"We want to bring back to the Americans the game that was the precursor to baseball," said Kinjal Buch.
To this end, the academy has donated free cricket equipment to several schools in Cupertino and successfully secured permission to use school premises for playing cricket.
"The academy's success is in large part due to the efforts of parent volunteers who raise funds, organize matches, and provide the required propaganda," says Hemant Buch.
"It's our way of doing community service, and we hope that Bay area residents will turn out in large numbers to watch and support the upcoming tournament," he added.
Admission to the matches is free. Match formats largely follow ICC rules, but vary somewhat for the smaller age groups.
For the under 15 category, the initial rounds will follow the league format with each team playing 30 overs. Semi-finals and finals will use the knock-out format.
Eight teams have signed up for the under 15 category. Four teams have committed to participating in the Under 13 matches that will be played using a 25 over format.
The Under 11 championship will be fought for by three teams who will use a 43/4 ounce ball and play 25 overs-a-side matches.
Matches will be played at Dilworth Elementary School, the Cupertino Library, Stanford University grounds in the South Bay.