COLUMBIA — Cricket is not a popular sport in the United States.
In Columbia, you can’t even find the proper equipment. In fact, nobody has asked Rusty Weir, co-owner of Red Weir Athletic Supplies, about cricket in eight or nine years.
That doesn’t stop 22 people from gathering approximately twice a week in warm weather to play the game. Among them is graduate student Pramod Kothuri. Kothuri came to the United States from Hyderabad, India, in 2006 to study electrical engineering. He never expected to find a place to play cricket.
The players meet at MU’s Stankowski Fieldwhich is next to the student recreation complex. They receive more than their fair share of confused looks from spectators.
“Many people come and ask us what exactly is going on and how you play,” Kothuri said. “A few of them like to play with us.”
However, he said there is always a risk of injury for inexperienced players.
“It’s very difficult when you don’t know anything,” he said. “You might get hurt. It takes a lot of practice.”
Vairam Arunachalam, an MU business professor, also acknowledges the potential dangers of the sport. When he plays, he uses what he calls a tennis-cricket ball instead of the traditional cricket ball. The tennis-style ball is not as hard as a cricket ball, which prevents injuries. It also bounces better on the playing surface.
Mayukh Ghosh, , who lives in Columbia but is originally from Kolkata, India, also plays with a hardened tennis ball. He says that, given the choice, he would rather play with the traditional ball.
“I don’t think people would like to play with that ball because they could get hurt, and also the people surrounding (the game),” he said. “We’re not the only people playing in Stankowski. There’d be other people, so you don’t want to hurt them.”
Ghosh said there is little risk of injury when using a tennis ball.
Arunachalam’s affinity for cricket led him to work with the city to install a cricket pitch in in 2005 at Rock Quarry Parklocated just off Grindstone Parkway. He even paid part of the construction costs for the 13-yard strip of concrete in the grassy area behind the parking lot. Despite the sport’s lack of popularity in the area, Arunachalam says the pitch does not go unused.
“When the weather is good, there’s someone playing Saturday and Sunday,” he said.
Ghosh moved to Columbia in 2005. One of the main reasons he likes Columbia is the opportunity to play cricket. He organized a game with his colleagues at Square D Company last September,
“I had been talking about cricket so much my colleagues said ‘Let’s just go and play,’” he said. “So we went out to Stankowski Field and Pramod lent me his cricketing equipment. I explained the rules, and then we just played for some time.”
Both Kothuri and Arunachalam think the sport should be promoted in the United States.
According to Ghosh, however, there is a chance of addiction.
“It gets to a point where you’re so involved in it, and you want to play so much that you even start playing it in your house, and that’s when you get in trouble,” he said. “I’ve broken so many things inside my house, and my mother- of course she was very nice- has not been very happy. And I think my wife can vouch for that.”