- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 6, 2008

BALTIMORE (AP) — After more than three decades playing at various locations in Baltimore County, the gentlemen of the Maryland Cricket Club finally will have a home when play starts this summer.

For the players — many from India, Pakistan and the Caribbean — the new field at Cloverland Park near the old Peerce’s Plantation restaurant in northern Baltimore County marks important recognition for their sport.

In a land where baseball and football are king, cricket attracts a huge following among people from Commonwealth countries.

“In India, it’s pretty much a religion when they play this game,” said Sakar Kalwe, 28, who played cricket professionally in his native country before moving to Reisterstown, Md. “Cricket is a mainstream sport there — like soccer or lacrosse here. Pretty much every small kid learns to play it, and that’s what they grow up with.”

Baltimore County recreation and parks officials say that while the top priority is providing facilities for young people to play the most popular sports, they also do their best to accommodate aficionados of more esoteric sports such as archery, fencing and cricket.

“Baltimore County will help any community that shows a willingness and desire to help themselves,” said Bud Chrismer, the county’s acting deputy director of recreation and parks. Teams must finance their own uniforms, equipment and umpires, but the county will try to provide and maintain a place for them to play.

“They’re a good group who have been following the rules for the past 30-some years,” Mr. Chrismer said of the cricket players, adding that he expects to spend less than $25,000 to build the cricket field. “It’s not like we’re trying to create a cricket mecca; we’re just trying to create a home for them.”

About 30 men play with the Maryland Cricket Club, one of the 17 teams that comprise the Washington Metro Cricket Board. Across the country, about 10,000 athletes on 600 teams play the sport, according to Gladstone Dainty, president of the U.S. Cricket Association.

Authorities say it’s one of the most popular sports in the world. A “test match” between Pakistan and India, for instance, can attract 1 billion TV viewers, said Paul Hensley, president of the C.C. Morris Cricket Library Association at Haverford College in Pennsylvania, the nation’s only library dedicated to cricket.

Residents in the affluent Dulaney Valley were concerned about the impact the new playing field will have on their quiet suburban community.

Yet, those neighbors said they can’t imagine a more pleasant group than the cricket players. After a recent meeting with parks officials, residents and players, the cricketers, many wearing crisp suits, introduced themselves to neighborhood residents and shook hands.

“We’re not the greatest lobbying people,” said Maryland Cricket Club member Charles Lall, a 58-year-old information-technology worker for Northrop Grumman, who has played for more than half a century. “But we’re very discipline-oriented … and we’re gentlemen.”

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