Members of the Frederick Cricket Club passionately play Great Britain’s traditional sport — sticky wicket, googly and all
By Mike Clem
Photos by Erick Gibson
“There’s a breathless hush in the close to-night —
ten to make and the match to win —
a bumping pitch and a blinding light,
an hour to play and the last man in.
And it’s not for the sake of a ribboned coat,
or the selfish hope of a season’s fame,
but his captain’s hand on his shoulder smote —
‘play up! play up! and play the game!”
— From “Vitai Lampada”/Henry_Newbolt
These young men gathering at Utica District Park on a summer Saturday afternoon for a game aren’t really doing it for awards or accolades from an adoring crowd. In fact, not a single spectator appears in attendance to cheer them on. No, they’ve come together for the sheer joy of sharing a sport most began playing as tiny chaps. And while they use a bat to hit a ball in an attempt to score runs, this sure isn’t America’s pastime.
It’s that most quintessential, if not eccentric and esoteric, of English competitive activities — cricket. From April through September, you’ll find the Frederick Cricket Club (FCC) going forth in matches against rival members of the Washington Cricket League (WCL). Although less familiar and more of a mystery to most Americans than Harry Potter’s quidditch, cricket enjoys such a global popularity with 106 nations belonging to the International Cricket Council — you could say the sun never sets on the game. It’s not surprising that the club’s current roster of 30 players is comprised of those from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, New Zealand and even the UK itself.
“Everyone who has a passion for cricket is welcome to join,” says Sanjay Trisal, the club’s founder and coach. “We prefer residents of the county, but we invite anyone who’s interested to come to our practice sessions. If they agree to our rules and regulations, then they can become part of our team.”
He adds that players who participate in the Washington Cricket League matches must pay $200 a year to cover the WCL’s annual membership fee, insurance requirements, field fees, team kit equipment, water, snacks, ground preparation and maintenance.
The fielders do not use gloves, and leg pads or helmets are only worn by most when batting, so the game requires a minimal investment to get started. “We provide some equipment that can be shared by all members, but most players prefer their own bat or protective gear, which can cost somewhere in the range of $300 to $1,200 depending upon the brand and quality,” says Trisal. “Just like in baseball, many cricket players are superstitious about their gear.”
That lack of specialized paraphernalia helps explain the sport’s appeal to the youth of various countries. Just like when cricket was first played in 16th century England, all you really need are a leather-covered cork ball, a willow bat, wickets, enough people for two 11-member teams and a grassy field. In fact, that’s about all the FCC had when Trisal started the team a year after his software engineering career brought him to Frederick from the Midwest in 2002. When Trisal discovered some fellow cricket fans playing in a park or tennis court, he began organizing informal matches in a recreational area off Key Parkway, nicknamed “Lords” after London’s traditional grounds and home of Britain’s national sport. Several years later, as interest grew, he approached the county parks and rec department with a request for a formal cricket field, which was granted in 2006 with grounds established in Ballenger Creek Park.
Today, they host their home games at the new Utica District Park in northern Frederick County. Unlike most sports, the laws of cricket don’t specify the fi eld’s dimensions, but it’s generally oval in shape. In the center sits an official pitch, the 22-yard-by-10-foot clay strip with wickets at each end where the key action takes place. Two batsmen face each other at opposite ends of the rectangle, standing behind a line called the crease and in front of the wicket. Those three stumps are the true target of the bowler’s windmill-like straight arm throw of the ball to one batsman at a time. If successfully defended by a hit, both of the batsmen run back and forth between the wickets. They score runs until the outfi elders retrieve the ball.
Because the 5.5-ounce ball must bounce once — usually with a wicked spin at an average of 90 miles per hour — before a swing is taken, the surface of the pitch must be hard and smooth. (Otherwise a wet or soft pitch presents a bit of a “sticky wicket” for the bowler.) And that requires some care. Perhaps the $1,000 price tag the team recently paid for a shipment from Baltimore of special “cricket mix” earth to maintain the pitch displays the club’s devotion to their sport.
“Growing up in India, I started playing cricket when I was 8 and continued at the college and league levels before moving to the United States,” the 40-year-old Trisal recalls. “I derive a great deal of personal satisfaction from the game. I guess since most of us come from foreign countries where cricket is the primary sport, it provides a reminder of boyhood, home and a sense of belonging.”
Many of his teammates, however, range in age from 18 to 40, and are students, scientists or businessmen whose work or studies bring them to the Frederick area temporarily. “We’re more like a social club with some members who come and go,” says Trisal. “We let everyone play. We also want to encourage those who’ve never played before to learn the sport. You don’t have to possess any special physical attributes to play the game. The challenge is to attract more locals and youth because our mission is to grow cricket at the grassroots level like soccer.”
When asked to name his favorite cricket team, Trisal smiles and answers, “India.” He proudly adds that his native country won the 2011 Cricket World Cup. “Since cricket is an international sport, your favorite team tends to be that of your homeland. So, of course, off the field, those of us from India have a good-natured rivalry with our teammates from Pakistan. But all national boundaries disappear when we’re on the cricket grounds.”
Watch and Learn
Cricket’s complexities and subtle strategies are difficult to explain, but the fundamental concepts can be quickly grasped by attending a game. And no, this won’t require a trip across the pond and five days spent watching a match, only to have it end in a draw.
The Frederick Cricket Club (FCC) doesn’t play that traditional format, called a “Test Match,” supposedly because its length tests players’ character and stamina — not to mention that of the spectators. Instead, as part of the Washington Cricket League, the FCC competes in a modern version known as “Limited Over Game” that was devised so games could be completed in about seven hours, including a short lunch break.
Bringing a picnic meal would be a good idea if you plan to attend a match. Sunscreen, a hat, umbrella or other sun protection are recommended, as there is often no shady area at the local cricket grounds. You may also wish to provide some seating.
If you’re interested in seeing the Frederick Cricket Club in action, more information, schedules and directions can be found at www.frederickcricketclub.com or at the Washington Cricket League’s website, www.wclinc.com.
Cricket by the Numbers
Size and weight of a cricket ball
A cricket ball weighs 5.5 ounces (155.9 g) and measures between 8 13/16 and 9 inches (22.4 and 22.9 cm) in circumference.
Size and weight of a cricket bat
Following the rules of the game, the length of the bat may be no more than 38 inches (965 mm) and the width no more than 4.25 inches (108 mm). Bats typically weigh from 2 pounds, 7 ounces to 3 pounds (1.1 to 1.4 kg), although there is no standard.
Typical score for a match
Cricket is usually a high scoring game. It’s normal to score 200-plus runs while batting in a limited over game (single day) format.
Number of rules in the official rulebook
There are about 42 laws of cricket.
Submitted by Gary Brooks
In 1859, Charles Dickens wrote the epic novel A Tale of Two Cities. In this classic, there’s a famous quote: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness….” That statement contrasts the plight of the French peasantry, demoralized by the French aristocracy in the years leading up to the revolution with its aftermath, and with London’s social conditions. Using this story as analogy, it is possible to contrast the “aristocracy” of the Frederick’s downtowners with the “peasantry” of the rest of the city. Frederick’s “privileged triangle” consists of that part of the city delineated by Route 15, East Street and I-70, while its “underclass” can be said to live outside it in areas like Whittier, Hillcrest, Amber Meadows and Dearbought.
The Songwriters Showcase at Brewers Alley
By Rachael Shankle
Photos by Bill Millios
It was a hot, late summer Monday evening when I met with local musician-host-songwriter-music promoter extraordinaire (whew!) Roderick Neil Deacey.
“Rod,” as he prefers to be called, is quite the colorful character, blending, as he does, a Salisbury, England, upbringing with 18 years of Americanization. But if it weren’t for this pond hopper’s passion for music, the Songwriter Showcase that’s been running at Brewer’s Alley for seven years, (where you can hear live, original music from 7:30–10:30 p.m. every Monday night) might not have occurred.