Cricket club keeps growing in Milwaukee

The basics of cricket:

A cricket field is centered around a rectangular path, called the "pitch." The pitch is where the action of the bowler throwing to the batsmen takes place. At each end of the pitch is the wicket, which is comprised of three wooden posts, each 32 inches long. The batsmen is in effect trying to defend the wicket from the bowler -- if the bowler hits the wicket, the batsman is out.

When he hits the ball the batsmen can attempt to run to wicket at the other end of the pitch; at the same time, the runner at the opposite wicket (who is the next batsmen) runs to the other end, so that they basically swap sides. If the defense gets the ball to a wicket before the runner or batsmen successfully reaches it, he is out. Each successful run to the other wicket counts as one run.

How cricket is similar to baseball:

  • the central action is a batter hitting pitches thrown to him
  • a batted ball caught on the fly is an out
  • the score is tallied in runs
  • the game divided into innings

How cricket is different from baseball:

  • a batter can elect not to run after he hits a pitch
  • 11 players on a team, not nine
  • no strikeouts -- a batter can swing and miss without any penalty
  • only two bases, not four
  • to get a runner out, the defender tags the base, not the runner
  • no foul territory -- the batter can hit the ball in any direction
  • the batter continues hitting until he is out
  • pitches are thrown to the batter on a bounce
Ian Fox's description of a cricket player's greatest thrill should sound familiar to anyone who's hit a baseball on the sweet spot of the bat.

"The cricket bat has a very distinct middle to it so that when the ball is hit there it will really fly," says Fox, manager of the Milwaukee United Cricket Club (MUCC).

Baseball terms are frequently employed when describing the sport of cricket to Americans (teams score runs, the match is divided into innings, hitting the wicket is like a strikeout). Like baseball, the focus of the action involves a match-up of a pitcher (called a bowler in cricket) throwing to a batter.

It's no surprise that cricket bears a resemblance to baseball -- baseball is in fact a descendant of cricket. Baseball developed in the 19th century from two sports that were off-shoots of cricket: rounders and townball.

In a season that stretches from early May until early October, the MUCC plays cricket matches almost every weekend at Lindsay Park on the northwest side of Milwaukee.

Formed three years ago from two smaller clubs, the MUCC has an entry in the Midwest Cricket Conference. The league consists of over 45 teams, most in the Chicago area. It is considered the top league in the region according to Fox, who moved to Milwaukee from his native Yorkshire, England seven years ago.

The MUCC has grown substantially since its inception, mostly due to the recent influx of software professionals from India to Milwaukee. Fox says membership is over 70 this season, up from about 40 a year ago.

To create an opportunity for everyone to play, the club created the Regal Series, in which the club members are divided into four teams that compete against one another. The Regal Series matches are held on weekend days on which a Midwest Cricket Conference league match is not scheduled.

The MUCC members are all immigrants from countries where cricket is popular - Great Britain and its former colonies. The majority of the team consists of recent arrivals from India. Fox is one of two Englishmen on the team. Other nations represented on the MUCC include Australia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.

The MUCC welcomes those who are new to cricket to join their club and learn the sport. Currently there are no Americans on the club. But Shiv Gopalkrishnan, captain of the MUCC league team, thinks that an American with a baseball or softball background could make a quick transition to the sport.

"If you are a baseball player you pretty much have your catching skills, your fielding skill nailed down, you have good eye-hand coordination," says Gopalkrishnan, a native of India. "I can see anybody with these skills fitting onto a cricket team very easily."

Fox notes that other clubs in the Midwest Cricket Conference league have had Americans on their rosters. He thinks that an American who is "committed" could learn the sport well enough to play in a match within a couple of weeks.

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