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Cricket anyone?

Sport rapidly growing in popularity across Tri-Valley

If you've been around the Tri-Valley long enough, you have seen the evolution of youth sports.

In the 1960s, Little League baseball had a stronghold. In the 1970s, soccer started making an impact and grew into the most-participated youth sport in the area. At the turn of the century, lacrosse began to make its presence known and continues to grow today.

So what's next to take the Tri-Valley by storm? How about ... cricket?

It's true. Participation in cricket is growing rapidly, with the foundation at the middle school level. And one group in particular has been responsible for the rapid growth among teens in the area.

Pleasanton-based Cricket for Cubs is a nonprofit organization that was formed last November. Ramesh Immadi, who played cricket in India when he was growing up, has been a driving force behind the local growth of the game and serves as the president of Cricket for Cubs.

Not sure what level of interest to expect, the group held an introductory informational meeting and shockingly drew over 800 people from around the Tri-Valley to the meeting, Immadi said. It was at that point things started to kick in and the group charged forward.

Thus far, Cricket for Cubs appears focused on doing everything right to grow cricket in the Tri-Valley.

The group recently held a "Spring Festival" for cricket over five weekends in Dublin and San Ramon, selling out the 300 allotted spots, with about 90% of the campers never having played the game before.

"We sold out the camp in two days," Immadi said. "At first when we started, I was scared about how it would turn out. We got one school going, then we needed a second one and it went from there."

From the start, the organizational structure has been unique from most youth sports groups, since its board of directors is made up of some of the middle school players as well as adults. But the direction has also been calculated and to the point.

In addition to people directly involved with the kids in the program, the Cricket for Cubs board has a pair of U.S. national team members: Nadia Gruny from the women's national team and Srihari Dasarathy from the under-19 USA squad.

It has given the organization credibility and star-power within the sport. The grassroots effort has also been crucial, and it started with family members involved.

Immadi sent his sixth-grade son Ajay -- also one of the board members -- out to help recruit, not just talking to kids but their parents as well.

The recipe appears to have been a success so far.

Harvest Park Middle School in Pleasanton, where Ajay attends, has 50 kids participating in the program, while Fallon Middle School in Dublin has 100 kids playing and Iron Horse Middle School in San Ramon has 30 kids.

The sport has taken such hold at Fallon that it has become part of the physical education curriculum.

"This is the first year we have rolled it out as part of the curriculum," Fallon PE teacher Eric Lamonica said. "It is going really well. A lot of the kids love it, and in fact, they are helping teach (the teachers) the game. (Cricket for Cubs) has been a lot of help and a tremendous resource."

Cricket draws some similarities to baseball in the essentials but in reality is quite different.

There is a bowler (pitcher), batsman (hitter) and a wicket keeper (catcher). There are also innings (two to four depending on the level of game in cricket) and fielders (nine in baseball; 11 in cricket).

Baseball is played on a diamond-shaped field, while cricket is played in circular fashion radiating 50 yards from the center. The game played at the highest level can last around four hours, but the middle school games have been scaled back to about a quarter of that length.

There is a natural cultural attraction for many who play the game, and cricket has seen a natural growth as the population of Indian or Asian residents increases in the Tri-Valley.

"It has become huge for our community," Immadi said. "We see the entire family come out to watch and enjoy the games."

As part of the Spring Festival, there was a middle school tournament held in San Ramon and Dublin where Cricket for Cubs had eight teams participate and 15 games played.

As is the case for any sport that rapidly grows in the area, field space is at a premium -- and in reality is never enough. San Ramon and Dublin have stepped up, with San Ramon having two cricket fields and Dublin one.

Thus far in Pleasanton there are none, and the Harvest Park team is forced to practice one day a week on the blacktop after school on Tuesday. There is support from city leaders in Pleasanton, as Mayor Jerry Thorne recently attended the tournament and was on-hand to help with the awards.

It appears that good news and better times could be on the horizon. When the Bernal Community Park complex opens, more field space will be available for soccer teams and the plan is for a cricket field to be installed at Muirwood Park.

"We are hoping Muirwood will be ready by June," Immadi said.

The participants are a mixed bag, starting with a small but seasoned group of players to those who are just beginning. Being out there representing your school is part of what is growing the sport.

Ajay, 11, is arguably one of the most accomplished youth players in the area. He plays with the U.S. Under-17 National Team, recently touring Sri Lanka. He is one of the better young bowlers on the national team.

Ajay has immediately found what so many high school athletes in the area have experienced. Playing at the high level with travel teams brings one type of pressure. Representing your school, despite a drop in overall talent at the local level, brings another pressure altogether.

"I have seen my son play for four years, and he never cries," Ramesh Immadi said. "But he made an out for Harvest Park, and he had tears. It's the passion of playing for your school."

For more information on Cricket for Cubs, visit to www.cricketforcubs.org.

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Comments

6 people like this
Posted by Rick Jackson
a resident of Danville
on Apr 24, 2016 at 8:53 pm

Happy to see people having fun but isn't this topic really just another example of immigrants refusing to assimilate into the communities and American culture? As conveyed in the story, it is the parents pushing the sport onto their kids. I'm sure the schools in Dublin and Pleasnton offered baseball, basketball, and football, but hey, forget those sports, let's make the US like India right? So which teams outside of Dublin and Pleasanton will participate? Perhaps Fremont? Other than that, there is no competition. Sorry, Cricket is not an American sport and never will be. You will not see Chinese, Japanese, White, Mexican, or Black kids playing it.


3 people like this
Posted by Tony B.
a resident of Danville
on Apr 25, 2016 at 10:21 am

In response to Mr. Johnson's comments regarding 'just another example of immigrants refusing to assimilate into the communities and American culture', it surely shows how jingoistic and narrow a perspective he has on the world. As a Briton residing here in America, you need to understand that many of the ex-patriots residing here and playing cricket, are from former British colonies / Commonwealth countries, eg India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Australia, South Africa, Kenya, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, etc, and were brought-up playing the sport as a result. I was a member of the Stanford University Cricket Club, where everyone was welcome, - yes even you colonial types! Think about this: If you, as an American, were residing in England, and wanted to play recreational baseball, you wouldn't be treated as a person who doesn't -or won't - assimilate into British culture. Rather, you would be viewed as an American who is away from their native country and wants to bring a sport of their country to a foreign land. There has been a large community of Indian and south-eastern Asian immigrants in recent years to the Diablo and Tri-Valley areas, resulting in the growth of cricket. All they are doing is bringing their sport to a foreign country.


1 person likes this
Posted by Dave
a resident of Danville
on Apr 25, 2016 at 11:42 am

The word is "inclusion," Rick.

Sorry to see that you are so insecure and fearful of people who have tastes that are different from yours.

I'm proud that our kids usually don't share these fears and are more welcoming to their new neighbors.


4 people like this
Posted by Rick Jackson
a resident of Danville
on Apr 25, 2016 at 4:11 pm

Tony B, it really makes sense when you explain it that way. It's an interesting perspective and I can see how moving to another country could have me yearning for say a hamburger, fried chicken, Chinese food, or a burrito. Americans are spoiled in that all this diversity comprises our culture.

Dave, your comment about being feerful is the typical response when someone questions assimilation, and sorry if your feelings were hurt from my comment. Everyone is imperfect but we still need to have these conversations. The family line of everyone in America can be traced to a far away land. Most people welcome immigration, including myself.

What I was trying to convey is that sports are typically competitive, so to have these sports in schools, and from the sound of it, the main sport at one or two schools, who will join the competition? Using your wording, "people of similar taste" right? In this case the result will likely be exclusive and not inclusive. Also, how diverse of a team will comprise the kids playing in this particular sport? That is my point. In the end, what we want is an inclusive society. For the most part, I'd say America does a pretty good job at it but we can do much better and should strive to integrate and assimilate.


Like this comment
Posted by dbrower
a resident of Alamo
on May 3, 2016 at 2:38 pm

A good conversation can usually be had by having an afficionado of cricket try to explain the rules and scoring to someone who is only familiar with baseball. Overs? Unders? Who doesn't anybody appear to be running hard? Googly? Such things are quite perplexing to people who have no problem with the infield-fly rule!

I've been asking people for 20 years, and I'm -starting- to understand.




1 person likes this
Posted by Cricketer
a resident of Danville
on May 4, 2016 at 8:16 am

If you are interested in watching some cricket in a fun, social atmosphere, the Marin Cricket Club has a fairly well attended match every August called the Ashes (modeled after the rivalry between England and Australia).

They generally have representatives from the British and Australian consulates attend, and have a big barbecue with beer and lots of spectators. It's a fun atmosphere, and they are always happy to explain to new members.

They play in Larkspur (Piper Park) across the street from Redwood High School. Their website is Web Link


1 person likes this
Posted by just playin'
a resident of Danville
on May 5, 2016 at 9:04 am

As a kid i lived in Germany. I use to play baseball with other ex-pats, but also learned to play soccer. Part of America being a melting-pot (assimilation) is that people who come here learn our culture, and we embrace and incorporate bits of theirs as well. It doesn't just go one way...


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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