BY PETER DORFMAN
Bloomingtonians strolling through Rev. Ernest D. Butler Park on a Saturday afternoon in spring or summer expecting to see youth baseball have instead been surprised by the sight of baseball’s distant cousin, the genteel, Old World game of cricket.
A cousin cricket might be, but it doesn’t look anything like baseball. With a stiff-armed, running delivery, the “bowler” pitches the ball to the “batsman,” who swings a flattened, oar-like bat. Instead of circling the bases to score runs, batsmen run back and forth between two “wickets” while the ball is in play.
“A lot of people have vaguely heard of cricket and are surprised to see it played in Bloomington,” says Dhairya Gala, a software engineer and bowler for the Bloomington Cricket
Club at Indiana University. The 9-year-old club has about 50 members.
The team practices on Saturdays — in warm weather, at the park and in colder months, indoors at the Wildermuth Intramural Center at 1025 E. 7th St. “We’re all passionate about the game, and we are restricted by the weather in Indiana, so with a few slight modifications of the rules, we’ve found a way to move the game inside when we need to,” Gala says.
The club travels to compete all over the state and hosts its own Hoosier Cup tournament; this year it took place in September at Twin Lakes Sports Park. “We had 20 teams from across Indiana and surrounding states,” Gala reports.
Cricket is played all over the world, especially in Great Britain and the Indian diaspora, although it has begun catching on in the U.S. An international test match typically lasts five days, but Midwestern clubs play by alternate rules that shorten the game to about an hour. The club uses modified equipment, including a ball that is lighter and softer than the leather ball used in rougher international cricket. “Butler Park is not a place where we can play leather ball cricket,” Gala notes.
At practices, the club members welcome spectators to give cricket a try if they are intrigued by what they see. “Someone who knows baseball could pick up the sport fairly quickly,” Gala says. To find out more, visit the club’s Facebook page at facebook.com/iucricket/.