LINCOLN, Neb. — All was quiet in the grassy, circular field tucked away in a corner of Air Park, except for the occasional plane or helicopter that would buzz softly in the distance.

Fielders, some dressed in all white, were waiting for a game to start.

The quiet was broken as a fielder ran up and delivered a red leather ball. His opponent, armed with a flat, willow-wood bat, was ready.

With an expertly-timed swing, the batsman smacked the ball.

Muffled cheers of “run!” could be heard from the edge of the field. The cricket match was under way.

Cricket — a centuries-old bat-and-ball sport created in England and played all over the world — is seeing a revival in Lincoln as overseas students staying in town for the summer and permanent residents are ramping up for the sport’s season.

The sport has its own local association, the Lincoln Cricket Club, comprised of expatriates from India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, who have mostly come to the U.S. for education and who stay to work after graduation.

The club recently played its second match of the season against the Omaha Mustangs as part of the Mid-American Cricket League.

Club president and India native Naren Parimi, who came to Lincoln in 2011 to pursue a master’s degree in computer science, was surprised to find the game in a country with a limited cricket following.

“It’s something that we as kids learn to play in India, like football and baseball for people here,” Parimi said.

Often compared to baseball, cricket pits teams of 11 against each other, as they alternate innings of batting and fielding on a circular field.

A bowler, much like a pitcher in baseball, attempts to get a batsman out through a variety of ways. The batsman, alternatively, tries to hit the ball and score runs by running between two posts, called wickets.

After a certain number of balls have been delivered or all the batsmen are out, the team with the most runs wins.

The sport, known for its sportsmanship as “The Gentlemen’s Game,” has its biggest following in Australia, India, South Africa and Jamaica.

Lincoln Cricket Club captain and India native Karthik Vepuri joined the local club after finishing school in Kansas and moving to Lincoln.

Vepuri says the sport is important for overseas students who stay in Lincoln over the summer and for those who have decided to call Lincoln home after finishing college.

“In a city like Lincoln, many students from the Indian subcontinent who stay over the summer or live here can feel homesick,” Vepuri said. “So cricket is a way to come together as a community and find some relief.”

The Mid-American Cricket League, comprised of 12 teams in eastern Nebraska, begins in April and ends around August, with games played on weekends.

This is the second year the Lincoln Cricket Club has participated in the league, but the sport has a history dating back several years, the Lincoln Journal Star (http://bit.ly/2pQz23x ) reported.

In 2001, the club secured land in Air Park to build a cricket field, complete with a pitch, where the ball is delivered, and a grass boundary.

Bangladesh native M.D. Amin, who moved to Lincoln in 2004 but has lived in the U.S. for 14 years, said he hopes the sport can continue to grow in Nebraska.

“Cricket is in our blood,” Amin said. “So we’re trying hard to get it to grow in Lincoln, but it is hard without having additional grounds where we can play.”

The Lincoln Cricket Club has held youth camps in the past, but most interest comes from passers-by who are intrigued by the sport.

“Cricket unites people all over the country and all over the world,” Vepuri said. “So we want to bring it to Lincoln to unite with those who share the same passion.”


Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, http://www.journalstar.com

An AP Member Exchange shared by the Lincoln Journal Star.

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ZACH HAMMACK
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