Cricket

Bonds formed, kept around cricket

Expats in Denver area keep cultural ties through sport

Posted 7/10/16

Jay Pathak takes the crease for batting practice at Cornerstone Park.

He taps the ground with his bat to gain his rhythm and stares down the pitch.

Pathak leans forward, drops to one knee and smacks the bouncing ball away with an elegant …

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Cricket

Bonds formed, kept around cricket

Expats in Denver area keep cultural ties through sport

Posted

Jay Pathak takes the crease for batting practice at Cornerstone Park.

He taps the ground with his bat to gain his rhythm and stares down the pitch.

Pathak leans forward, drops to one knee and smacks the bouncing ball away with an elegant strike. His skills are polished, the result of years of practice.

His team, the Littleton Cricket Club, play on a synthetic pitch — a concrete rectangle covered in artificial turf. In the Denver metro area, this surface on South Windermere Street on the Littleton-Englewood border is about as close as it gets to a proper wicket.

For many many expatriates from cricket-playing nations living in the Denver area, the sport connects them to their families and traditions while fostering a sense of community in their new home.

Pathak, 21, was born in India and grew up in New Zealand before moving to the United States with his family at the age of 15.

He spent his childhood playing on well-maintained grounds. A traditional wicket — the hard 22-yard batting and running surface in the middle of a cricket field with stumps on either end — is made of manicured grass that has been trimmed and compacted so that it is hard, allowing the ball to bounce.

“In India, I used to get private lessons,” said Pathak, who moved to New Zealand at the age of 6. “I learned how to bat and bowl. The basics of the game.”

In New Zealand, he began playing competitively for the local club and spent hours practicing his batting in nets he set up in his backyard.

“My dad was very enthusiastic about cricket. He used to give me three or four hours of practice every day to try and help me,” Pathak said.

He now lives and works in Denver and is a hopeful for the U.S. national team.

“I have toured Sri Lanka. I’ve toured India with the U.S. team. So, I’m working my way up trying to get into the national team again,” Pathak said. “It’s pretty special.”

Dharam Patel, 26, grew up in the Denver metro area and has been playing competitively with the Littleton Cricket Club since he was 13.

Patel split his time between high school baseball and cricket before eventually moving to England to play cricket for Durham University, where he earned his undergraduate degree.

“My parents are both from India. My dad is from Mumbai. My dad actually played at a high level in Mumbai,” Patel said. “So it’s in my blood.”

Bodhayan Chakraborty moved to Denver from India in 2009. He spent a year without the sport before a friend told him about cricket in Colorado.

He is now the captain of the Little Cricket Club, playing with teammates Pathak and Patel.

“In our part of the world — India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka—we grew up playing cricket. From our childhood we start playing and it is just like football over here,” Chakraborty said. “We just love playing cricket.”

Cricket in Colorado

The Littleton Cricket club draws players from around the metro area and is one of eight top-division teams in the Colorado Cricket League, which was founded in 1985.

Players says members join particular clubs more because of their connection with the group than location, with some driving as far as from Denver to Colorado Springs to play for a team.

The CCL has players with roots in Asia, the Middle East, Australia and the Caribbean.

Suresh Talatoti, originally from India, is the president of the CCL and a member of the Boulder Cricket Club. He said through cricket, players are able to make a community of their clubs.

“We travel together to go and play games in the Denver metro area from Fort Collins to Colorado Springs (and) Albuquerque, where we have couple of clubs that are part of CCL, ” Talatoti said.

Teams in the CCL play among themselves but also travel out of state to compete regionally and nationally. Players from Colorado also participate on state and regional teams that compete nationally.

The gentleman’s game

Cricket is a bat-and-ball game with its origins in 16th-century England. It was popularized during the Victorian age and became the game of the British Empire.

It was spread to all corners of the globe with international teams in Africa, Australia, the Caribbean and the Indian subcontinent, where more than a billion people treat the sport as religion.

“Cricket is called a gentleman’s game, and in my opinion, no other sport compares in terms of the number of skills displayed and the blend of quality, entertainment, sudden thrill and sustained intellectual interest,” Talatoti said

Cricket can be confusing. There are 11 players per side, scores run into the hundreds and games can last from a couple hours to several days.

Chakraborty said once you understand the game, you will fall in love with it.

Long stretches of monotony can be punctuated by moments of exhilaration as the drama and tension builds over time.

“I didn’t know about American football. I thought ‘this is just pushing and pulling and that kind of game.’ I didn’t know the rules. Once I knew the rules, I found it very interesting. Cricket is the same,” he said. “If you know the rules, if you know what the bowler is doing, what the batsman is doing, then you will find it very interesting.”

While a player may walk up to bat with plans on making runs all day, he also may be bowled out on his very first ball.

“If you’re an opening batsman and you get out on the first ball of the day, you’re sitting there for the rest of the (game) feeling like you didn’t do you job for the team,” Patel said. “It can get to you if you get out on the first ball because you don’t have a redemption until the next match.”

A family affair

On a recent Wednesday, the Littleton Cricket Club was preparing for a rivalry game with the local Colorado Cross Bats Cricket Club, which practices at a new ground in Green Valley Ranch near Denver International Airport.

“Our families come. Our friends come. It’s obviously not crowded like the football games, but we have found some supporters here who come and cheer us on,” Chakraborty said.

The cricket community is building. It’s a place to connect with family, friends and places far away from Colorado. While its advocates try to convert more locals to the sport, there is a group of Coloradans born with roots in the sport.

“I’m definitely going to have the option of cricket there for my kids. I’m sure a lot of these guys, once they have children, will think the same,” Patel said. “The kids are always going to take up something that is going to be watched and followed within the house, so if you’re in an American house, baseball, basketball, football are what is watched. Cricket is what is watched in our houses.”

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