Cricket

Cricket
The pitcher can legally throw a wide variety of pitches including a spitball.

To photograph cricket for the first time in my career took some work. Laura joined me for the trip to Olathe for a game on Sunday, October 10, at the Olathe Cricket Grounds. Just the sound of the words “cricket grounds” rolling off the tongue made us feel so British. The only problem was getting to those grounds.

Google Maps left us idling in our car in a neighborhood of well-groomed homes, none with yards large enough to host cricket. Apple’s Maps took us in a new direction and kept calling out that we had arrived, but arrival still meant no grounds to be found. So finally, I turned to “Pathfinder,” my most-trusted navigator. Laura’s ability to get us anywhere is beyond amazing. She long ago earned her nickname from James Fennimore Cooper’s five novels known as the “Leatherstocking Tales,” recounting early frontier days in what is now the state of New York.

Laura studied the map on her phone carefully and began giving me directions in a much more pleasant voice than any app generated. Finally, we pulled into the parking lot of an abandoned strip mall to find players climbing out of cars with the distinctive flat-sided bats used in the game. Yet, our adventure continued as we worked our way past the large garbage containers behind The Other Place – America’s Sports Grill & Pizzeria with the players.

Facing a steep dirt downhill with a rolling-camera case filled with gear, we carefully negotiated our way down, sliding along fast enough to kick up a trail of dust from the case’s wheels. We started to feel we were on a journey worthy of a Fennimore Cooper novella. Then, crossing over a bridge along the Indian Creek Trail, the woods gave way to a large field with a 30-yard strip of concrete in the middle of an area marked out in an oval.

The rules of the game outline the pitch as “an oval described by drawing a semicircle of 30 yards radius from the center of each wicket with respect to the breadth of the pitch and joining them with lines parallel, 30 yards to the length of the pitch.” Let’s just say it is large, but in Olathe, not large enough to prevent a few trees from reaching into the circle where fielders can make catches amongst them.

That is just one of the myriad of rules that confound most Americans. Nevertheless, 30,000 players take to the fields throughout the United States. Cricket remains the second most popular sport globally with 2.5 billion followers, trailing only soccer, or football as it is officially called, at 4 billion.

The game’s creation is muddled but does date back to the 1500’s in England. The game spread throughout the English colonies, with India, Pakistan and the Caribbean Islands becoming strongholds. Immigrants from these countries brought the game to America. The teams we photographed were made up of the offspring and new immigrants from those countries. They remain passionate about the game’s heritage and their desire to keep the game growing in Midwest.

After we managed to climb back up the steep hill and relaxed for a moment in our car, Laura and I agreed we were happy to have found the Olathe Cricket ground and become elementary fans of the complex game that fascinates the world.

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