Get Adobe Flash player

Cricket swinging into Picken

Could you identify a wicket if you saw one? What about a gully?

If not, you may be able to soon.
If Kashif Rana gets his wish, Pickens County residents may get to experience a game that traveled thousands of miles across the Atlantic in the 18th century but which has been unable to maintain a foothold in the states. 
“I think people out in the country like this would really be interested in cricket because it is so similar to baseball,” Rana said. He is vice president of the American Cricket Club, a Georgia-based team that won the 2008 Atlanta Georgia Cricket Conference League Championship and a 2010 AGCC PREMIER League Championship trophy. 
Rana, who owns the Main Stop Market in Jasper and who has homes in Pickens County and Kennesaw, is actively searching for a field in the county that would be suitable for play,  circular  with a minimum of 150 yards in diameter. Rana envisions it serving as home field for his team, meaning all American Cricket Club home games would be played here during  regular cricket season from April through October. 
Rana has already met with officials from the City of Jasper, but he says the playing fields he has seen are not large enough or flat enough. 
“We could possibly use some of the school fields,” Rana said, “and there is a field by Ingles that might work, but we’re not sure about that yet. So this is what I am doing now. Searching for a good field.”
Rana says there is a big sponsor on the line who may be able to come through with funding, which could be used for field maintenance and upkeep, uniforms, equipment, and other things associated with the game.   But Rana’s hopes for cricket are loftier than just bringing the centuries-old sport to Pickens. He wants to see cricket take off in the states, and he says the potential is here but Americans just aren’t biting. Not yet anyway.  
“Cricket is not catching Americans’ eyes,” said Rana, who moved to the U.S. from Pakistan when he was 14. “But it’s the second biggest sport in the world after soccer, and we are wanting to bring it to the U.S. like soccer. 
“You know, no one used to like soccer,” he added, “and now it has become a lot more popular here…But one big problem is the American cricket team keeps losing in the World Cup. If we could place, then it would create more interest in the sport.”
Just check out any American cricket roster for yourself. There are very few Smiths or Johns or Mitchells. The team members all have names like Patel, Nazir, or, well, Rana. 
“Yeah,” Rana said. “The problem is all the players are non-American. They are all of Asian, African or Caribbean decent.” 
That’s because cricket originated in Europe, eventually becoming a British gentleman’s game that went, and colonized, where they did. Cricket had some success in America in the country’s early years after the first settlers arrived, but the sport’s popularity began to wane in the late 1800’s never to recover. It was supplanted by that now ubiquitous American game, baseball, whose origins are just as murky as its highbrow counterpart.
The exact origin of cricket is broadly speculated, but some experts believe Saxon and Norman peoples played the first incarnations of the sport, most likely beginning as children’s games. 
Cricket’s known history begins in the 16th century with international matches beginning 1844.  
As for baseball, it was once believed that the game was invented by Abner Doubleday in 1839, a United States Army officer and Union general in the American Civil War who fired the first shot in defense of Fort Sumter, but this myth has by and large been debunked. Many experts now believe that baseball originated in England from folk games, similar to cricket, and traveled to the states in the 19th century. 
Rana postulates that “people didn’t want to do anything the queen was doing, and that’s why we have baseball.”
And it’s true that baseball and cricket haven’t always gotten along. At one time cricket players scoffed at the All-American sport, which they felt was a crass interpretation of their sophisticated bat-and-ball game. In is heyday in early America,  cricket was reserved for the wealthy not the working class, which is thought to have contributed to its demise.
But now cricket and baseball are seeing more eye to eye. An exhibit called “Swinging Away: How Cricket and Baseball Connect,” has been installed behind the Lord’s cricket grounds in London, a sacred spot in the world of bowlers and wickets.  
Baseball terms are even being used more often in cricket, and there are shorter more crowd-friendly versions of the game being played, opposed to traditional games that could last up to several days at a time.   
  Even without big support from Americans, cricket in the states still has it small base of super devoted fans. In Georgia alone there are cricket fields in Fulton, Ringgold, Conyers and Cobb counties. Fulton County is exploring cricket as a school sport and there is an indoor cricket playing facility in Norcross called Cricadia. 
Only time will tell if Pickens County will warm up to it to cricket. But while Rana continues his search for a field residents can brush up on wickets and bat pads and bowlers and maybe, just maybe, we’ll get to see a game.
 
Kashif Rana (l), owner of Main Stop Market in Jasper, is looking for a field suitable for cricket inside Pickens County. Rana is the vice president of the American Cricket Club out of Atlanta and is pictured with a cricket student.