By Briana Hedden
A sport that’s little known to those who grew up in the United States is quickly becoming one of the most played games in Loudoun.
The growing number of families who have moved to the county from India, Pakistan and other South Asian countries have brought with them their love of cricket. The game uses a bat and a ball that is harder and heavier than a baseball, but also pits two teams against each other, each vying for the most runs.
Standard cricket fields are one and a half times the size of a soccer field, which means they require a lot of open space. Cricket players and fans are finding that’s hard to come by in Loudoun.
The Loudoun County Cricket League started pressing for more fields, speaking at Board of Supervisors meetings this spring. The league is likely the fastest growing sports organization in the county, expanding from five teams in 2009 to 48 adult teams and five youth teams this year. With 25 players per team, that brings the total league to 1,300 players.
And those players have few places to play the sport. Loudoun has one field designed specifically for cricket, at Mickie Gordon Memorial Park near Middleburg. To make do until more fields can be built, Loudoun County’s Loudoun County Parks, Recreation and Community Services Department has made modifications to fields at Brambleton Community Park and Phillip A. Bolen Park in Leesburg to accommodate cricket, by adding pitches, a strip of short grass between wickets. It cost about $20,000 to build a cricket pitch on a field.
“After cricket really exploded over the last couple of years, we wanted to take care of them as much as we could,” Loudoun Parks and Recreation Director Steve Torpy said.
But the make-shift cricket fields around the county are not always available, because, for much of the time, they’re booked by Loudoun’s even larger soccer or baseball leagues.
“This season we had four games washed out due to rains and we were unable to reschedule them due to lack of field availability,” said Harsha Sarjapur, founder of the Facebook group Loudoun County Indian Community. “This is a huge frustration in the cricket community.”
The cricket league is petitioning supervisors for at least three more cricket fields, specifically one more at Mickie Gordon Memorial Park, one at Hal and Berni Hanson Regional Park, and another field in Phillip A. Bolen Park.
Torpy has been working with the cricket league to try to find them more fields, but he said the county is short on open space.
“Cricket fields are now being considered whenever a large, open space becomes available,” Torpy said. His department is also beginning to work with Loudoun County Public Schools so leagues, including cricket, can play on middle and high school fields.
Supervisor Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles), who represents a district with a high Indian and Pakistan population, agrees there’s a need for more cricket fields. Most recently, he advocated a cricket pitch to be added to a field at Hal and Berni Hanson Regional Park. But, as popular as cricket is, the community is competing with even larger leagues for open space and field time. He noted the Dulles South Little League, which has 1,200 players alone, is one of 15 little leagues in Loudoun.
Letourneau estimates Loudoun faces a deficit of 150 to 175 sports fields.
“Everyone is competing for space,” he said.
He is encouraging the cricket community to consider public-private partnerships to secure funding for more fields.
The Loudoun County Cricket League is open to ideas of raising funds to help offset costs to the county and would consider a public-private partnership to build and maintain the fields, according to Vinod Motwani, a member of the league.
He said making room for cricket could help more than cricket players and fans, but also the Loudoun community as a whole. Recently, the United States of America Cricket Association approached the Loudoun league to organize and host a youth tournament. “But we had to decline due to lack of fields,” he said, noting that Loudoun missed out on an opportunity to boost revenue for its hotels, restaurants and retail shops. “Someday, we would love to have kids come out to the fields and learn to play, instead of playing in driveways and cul-de-sacs.”
For Loudoun County Cricket League game schedules and other information, got to loudoun.cricket.