Legions of folks England, Pakistan, the West Indies, and Australia love cricket with the passion of a Mets or Yankees fan here. Mention terms like googly, flipper, and stumps to a Yank, though, and you’ll be met with a blank stare, since we’ve exhibited little interest in seeing anyone play the flat-bat counterpart to our national pastime.
But Lalta Persaud, president of the new Indoor Cricket USA in Morristown, has made it his mission to popularize the “gentleman’s game” here. “In the midst of battle, the teams adjourn, sit at the same table, have conversation, eat, and return to battle,” says Persaud, who is convinced that cricket imparts lifelong lessons in sportsmanship as well as building a commitment to athleticism.
After emigrating from Guyana to the United States as a child, Persaud developed a love for cricket that was nurtured by his eldest brother, Rajendra. When Rajendra died in 2000 at the age of 36, Persaud and his brother Kawal—both top amateurs on the international cricket circuit—decided to open a venue in Queens, New York, in Rajendra’s honor. A 2002 fire destroyed the business a year after it opened, but it has now been reborn as an indoor venue in Morristown, not far from Persaud’s home in Jefferson Township, with an artificial turf field that duplicates the proper short-grass playing surface in this game that is normally played on a sprawling field outdoors. There’s a fast-paced three-hour alternative to the traditional test matches, which are played six hours a day for five days. Cricketers from all over the East Coast come to practice and play, browse the pro shop, or just hang out with other devotees.
Persaud hopes the venture will help create an outlet for cricket-playing ex-pats while introducting curious Americans to a new sport.
“America should not settle for mediocrity in anything,” he says. Could Morristown soon become “the Mecca for cricket in the United States,” as Persaud puts it? Now that’s a sticky wicket.
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