International sport’s popularity in N.L. minimal but spirited
Dave Liverman first experienced the game of cricket as a boy growing up in England.
“I started playing in the back garden with my dad when I was four years old,” recalled Liverman. “I played for a long time, and when I moved to Newfoundland 25 years ago, there was no cricket.”
While the sport’s profile in this province is nowhere near that of hockey, softball or soccer, one certainly cannot say in 2013 that there’s no cricket in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Nisarg Dave, 13, pitches to 12-year-old Mohala Kumar at Kelly’s Brook Park, where the Cricket Association of Newfoundland and Labrador held Cricket Day in St. John’s on Saturday. — Photo by Andrew Robinson/The Telegram
The Cricket Association of Newfoundland and Labrador hosted Cricket Day in St. John’s Saturday at Kelly’s Brook Park. The park has proven to be a popular site for casual games, often involving international students studying at Memorial University.
“It was a big game in Newfoundland 100 years ago — the old Bishop Field school played ... that English tradition,” said Liverman. “Then it pretty much died out, and then it was right here that a group about five years ago, they’d have India against Bangladesh games with students.”
Those games proved to be the impetus for the formation of the provincial association.
There are an estimated 100 people who actively participate in the sport in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Like baseball, cricket involves a pitcher, batters and fielders. However, the shape of the bat is unique, looking somewhat similar to the oar of a boat. The batter must protect three stumps making up a wicket. There are two wickets in play, from which the batters run back and forth when the ball is hit into play.
Liverman said Saturday’s event was held to try to encourage new people to partake in the sport, which traditionally involves teams of 11 per side. For Saturday’s purposes, a taped-up tennis ball was used instead of the traditional hard cricket ball that makes protective gear a necessity.
There was not a huge turnout as of early Saturday afternoon, with most people on hand already in the local league of four teams that plays for the Atul Ahuja Cup. Its season concluded earlier this month.
Liverman said there were a couple of new faces present on the field Saturday.
“They’re overseas students,” he said, noting one comes from Australia and the other Pakistan. “They heard about this and they just moved here, and they’re pretty excited to find that there’s cricket here, because they didn’t expect to find cricket here.”
In Liverman’s view, cricket is sort of an everyman’s game in that one does not need to be overly tall, fast or strong to play the sport. With that said, he also notes that in order to excel at it, a fair amount of skill is necessary.
“It’s a very tactical game. It’s a little like baseball. ... There’s a lot of subtlety in the way the pitcher pitches against a given batsman.”
Beyond outdoor play, local cricket players take part in indoor games during the fall and winter months at MUN, fielding teams of six.