‘Everyone can play it’
Though steeped in tradition and played primarily in former British colonies, cricket has played a significant role as a vehicle for political and cultural transformation, as well.
As documented by Stevan Riley’s documentary “Fire in Babylon,” the sport was revolutionized by the West Indies teams of the late-1970s and 1980s. The teams were forged of players from Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, Jamaica and elsewhere in the Caribbean; they brought fearless power and unprecedented pace to the game. Their ascendance as a global power paved the way for the region to shake off the vestiges of colonialism and assert a genuine independence.
Cricket also has bridged cultural, ethnic and political divides throughout the world.
“This is the only thing that brings India and Pakistan together,” says Tarik Hussein, 38, who travels from his home in Charlestown, W.Va., each weekend to play for the Washington Tigers, among the more decorated teams in the Washington Cricket League.
Jones, 27, the physical education instructor, confesses that he often confused cricket with croquet before attending the teaching workshop, eager to expose Whitehall’s students to a new activity and lured by the promise of free equipment.
He loved what he found: A sport that was similar to baseball but demanded far more activity, gave children of all sizes and ability a better chance of hitting the ball and rewarded teamwork and sportsmanship.
Jones introduces cricket to students by showing a video of adults playing the game, pointing out the similarities and differences with baseball along the way.
In children’s cricket, bowlers pitch under-handed rather than overhand, which makes the ball easier to hit. And at Whitehall, Jones adds up-tempo music, pausing the tape periodically to quiz students on the score, suggest a slight grip change for batters who are whiffing and praise all that the children do well.
“They love the activity level,” Jones explains later. “Seeing boys and girls playing together and all at different skill levels, it should be fun!”
Cricket isn’t terribly different at the club level, demanding cooperation, teamwork, discipline and far more skill than brawn.
“Anyone and everyone can play it,” says Kulkarni, the “Pitch of Dreams” filmmaker. “You don’t need a certain body type. It’s not like football or basketball, where you need to have certain physical aspects. You can be very lean or very short. In fact, you can have a pot belly and still be a good cricket player.”