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First United Cricket Tournament Brings Global Game to Chicago

By Darryl Holliday | August 26, 2013 2:43pm
 A modest start for the North Side competition, but fans expect growth for the wildly popular sport.
First Annual Cricket Tournament
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ROGERS PARK — Most U.S. sports fans probably don't know a wicket from a batsman.

But fans of cricket, the world's second or third most popular sport, depending whom you ask, say the game is gaining traction in the states.

And the inaugural United Cricket Tournament in Warren Park, held for three days over the weekend, is just the start, organizers of the event said at the championship match Sunday afternoon.

The game, though wildly popular all over the world, is most easily explained to American audiences via baseball terminology — both sports have bases (or wickets), a bat, runs and outs, so on — but that's where the similarity ends as a sinlge game of cricket can take up to five or six days to play.

But the three-day tournament was capped at 60 "pitches" per inning. While Americans like sports with clear cut winners, that's not the case in much of the world, said Sirag Mohammed of team Daata Darbar.

"In India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, every street, every corner, they are playing," he said. "And when you see a big match going on, a pin could drop — it's silence in the streets."

The crowd at Warren Park, mostly made up of the area's Indian and Pakistani population, grew throughout the weekend up until the final day as the tournament that began with 16 teams was dwindled to a pair of finalists — HDCC vs. 9 Stars. About 100 people watched the final match.

It all begins with a coin toss, explained Mujeeb Syed, a Rogers Park resident and cricket fan. The winner of the toss then chooses to bat or pitch, but, unlike baseball, an entire game of cricket has only two "innings" — the team that lost the coin toss must beat the first team by one point in the second inning.

The game is played in a large circle — in this case a 150 foot circle bordered by flags from various countries. Each pitch of the "hard tennis ball" involves a running-windmill-toss before it is hit by the batter for a range of runs and points.

"Unfortunately in Chicago the game is only played for three or four months because of the weather," Syed said. "Otherwise there would be a game every week ... cricket it a passion for people in Southeast Asia."

But both Syed and Mohammed have high hopes for the game eventually taking off in the U.S.

"It'll be, like, oh my God this is a million dollar business — more than a million," Mohammed said.

According to organizer, Hasan Syed, Chicago's annual tournament will be designed for the community — local businesses make up most of the team rosters — but he largely has the youth of Rogers Park in mind. The weekend event would make a great back-to school activity, he said.

In the end, it was team HDCC that won the coveted trophy with a score of 63 to 62.