Youth cricket gains ground in Maryland


Ishaan Verma, 11, takes practice swings after his team finished a cricket match in Germantown. (Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post)
July 19, 2013

“You need to step up and hit! . . . There you go! Run! . . . How many runs do we have? Go! Go! Good job!”

Those are the kinds of things you would hear at a baseball game, right?

They’re also the kinds of things you would hear at a cricket match, along with “Wait, how many overs are there?” and “There are four bowls and one out.”

Youth cricket growing

In the past couple of years, the game of cricket has been growing in popularity among Maryland kids. Next week, six coed youth cricket teams from the Maryland Youth Cricket Association will meet at the first Maryland Youth Cricket Championship. It will be the first state youth cricket competition in the country, according to Jamie Harrison, who helped found the United States Youth Cricket Association.
The Maryland association plans to add two more teams to the group next year.

Bowlers and batsmen

At a recent match early on a Sunday morning, the Germantown Kids Cricket Club challenged the Bowie Girls and Boys Club, playing on part of a baseball field. A regular cricket field, called the cricket ground, is oval-shaped; the main part of the ground is known as the pitch, a rectangular space between two wickets, sets of three upright sticks that are a key part of the game. The two wickets in this youth match stood 48 feet apart.

“I started playing cricket with my dad four or so years ago,” said Kshitij (sounds like “shi-TEEJ”) Gupta, 13, who was sitting on the bench while his team, GKCC, played defense. “I like the bowling better than the baseball pitching,” said Kshitij, who will be in eighth grade at Roberto Clemente Middle School in Germantown this fall.

In cricket, the bowler is like the pitcher in baseball. He or she throws the ball to a batsman, who tries to hit the ball. The bowler can get the batsman out by throwing the ball so that it hits the wicket behind the batsman. Unlike baseball and its pitchers, cricket teams change their bowlers often during each match.

A cricket team puts two batsmen on the field at the same time. Each stands at a wicket, but only one bats. When a batsman hits the ball, both batsmen have to make it to the other wicket to score a run.

Eleven players from the opposing team try to stop the runs and get an out by catching the ball or getting the ball to one of the wickets while the runners are still in the pitch. It’s sort of like getting the ball to home plate so a runner can’t score in baseball. In cricket, however, the batsmen can keep running back and forth between the wickets, scoring multiple runs while the fielders are working to get an out.

More runs, more fun

“In cricket, you get more recognition,” said Chimwemwe Chinkuyu, 10, who will be a fifth-grader at Heather Hills Elementary School in Bowie this fall and who was playing for the Bowie team. “Because when you hit, you can score more.” In professional cricket matches, teams score hundreds of runs each.

Aaron Slack, 9, started playing cricket with his best friend, who is from India, where cricket is very popular. Now he plays with the Bowie team.

“There are only two bases, so you get to score more so you get congratulated more,” said Aaron, soon to be a fifth-grader at Yorktown Elementary School in Bowie.

If the batsmen think they cannot score any more runs, they each stay at one of the wickets. The next player to bat is the batsman on the field who ends up facing the bowler.

Once the batsman is out, he or she cannot bat for the rest of the game, according to Maryland youth rules. After 48 bowls, the other team gets to bat, no matter how many outs there are. When both teams have batted, an inning is complete. The match consists of two innings.

‘It’s cool’

Coach Anurag Babbar started the Germantown team two years ago with five players, because his son, Anav, now 12, wanted to play. Today, there are 65 players on his team, so they have enough players for two teams.

Nathan Zacharski, 9, who will be a fourth-grader at Whitehall Elementary School in Bowie, likes cricket better than baseball.

“You can hit the ball wherever you want,” he said.

There are no foul balls in cricket and no pitches that are called balls, so the batsman is more inclined to swing at a bowl rather than to wait for a better one.

Nathan and his twin brother, Joseph, learned cricket from a neighbor.

“I play cricket because it’s cool and fun,” said Joseph, who is on the Bowie team. His favorite position is bowler. “It’s cool how you can get people out by hitting the wicket,” he said.

At the end of the match, Germantown had scored 65 runs and Bowie had scored 20.

The teams shook hands and then stood around tables of food, waiting in line to eat the feast that their moms had prepared.

“Whenever a kid picks up the game, they start loving it,” Babbar said. “It’s great to see the passion in these kids.”

Moira E. McLaughlin

Maryland Youth Cricket Championship

Cricket is a mix of skill, athleticism and teamwork. Go to a match and see what’s similar to baseball and what isn’t.

What: Six Maryland teams with kids younger than 15 will play in a tournament.

Where: Cricket field at the Germantown SoccerPlex,
14501 Schaeffer Road, Boyds.

When: July 28, noon to 7:30 p.m. Each game will last about two hours.

How much? Free.

For more information: Your parents can visit www.mdyouthcricket.org.

Know your cricket terms

Batsman: Batter

Bowler: Pitcher

Bowl: One throw

Bowling spell: In a professional match, this is the three to six hours that a bowler will be bowling.

Crease: A line in front of the wickets over which the batsmen must run in order to score.

Cricket ground: The playing field

An over: Six bowls. In the Maryland youth games, a team gets eight overs per inning; then the other team gets to bat, no matter how many or how few of the first team’s batsmen are out. That is very different from baseball, where an inning is over only when three batters are out.

Pitch: The area between the wickets

Wicket: Three poles in the ground that the bowler is trying to hit. It’s also the place where the fielders take the ball to get the batsman out.

Professional equipment and uniforms

The ball: The ball used in professional cricket matches is made of cork wound in string and then covered in leather.

The helmet: Professional cricket players often wear helmets to prevent injuries from the hard ball.

The bat: Cricket bats are typically made of willow, a wood that is strong but light.

The uniform: Players traditionally wore all-white uniforms, but today some teams choose colored outfits.

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