GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (AP) — On a recent, cold Wednesday night in Grand Island, seven guys were inside the Community Fieldhouse, having a great time playing cricket.
Americans might think of the game as dull, but the seven men were obviously having fun. Plays often provoked loud reactions, and the participants did their share of laughing and joking around.
The group has been playing cricket inside the Community Fieldhouse on a weekly basis for two months.
All seven of the players were originally from India. But they have been joined by natives of Nepal and Pakistan. A student at the University of Nebraska at Kearney, who is originally from the West Indies, has also played, the Grand Island Independent reported.
A real cricket ball consists of a cork base, wrapped in twine and covered with leather. At the Community Fieldhouse, the players use a tennis ball. "Because we don't want to break anything here," said Nainan Patel.
People new to the sport might be surprised that cricket players throw curve balls, just as they do in baseball. The pitcher, known as a bowler, puts spin on the ball in an effort to make the batsman miss it.
There are a few other similarities with baseball and softball. All you need is a bat and ball. Players swing the bat in an effort to score runs.
"Otherwise the rules are entirely different. They really are," said Kavir Saxena, a Grand Island psychiatrist.
How you score is quite different. "There are many ways you can make runs," Saxena said.
Another big difference? In delivering his pitch, the bowler bounces the ball.
All of the players grew up playing cricket.
In India, people commonly play street cricket or neighborhood cricket, said Dhaval "Danny" Bhatt, who grew up in Ahmedabad.
Cricket is the No. 1 sport in India, Patel said. Field hockey is a distant second.
Cricket is part of "the national fabric," Saxena said.
Patel, who's lived in Grand Island since 2001, is glad to get back into the swing of things. Earlier in his time in Grand Island, there weren't enough players around. "I've been missing the sport so much," he said. But this winter, Patel was successful in getting the weekly cricket matches going. Sometimes, attendance is as high as 12 or 14.
None of the players at the recent Wednesday night game got into an argument. That simply wouldn't be cricket, old chap.
Just as in baseball, power is valued in cricket.
The cricket equivalent of a home run is called "six runs," Patal said. If you hit the ball over the boundary ropes, the reward is six runs. In countries with a British heritage, people sometimes say that if a recipient didn't see it coming, bad news "hit him for six."
Patel said it's a "very slow sport," like baseball. But he also said cricket is "pretty intense."
Saxena said cricket is easy to follow. The sport has "simpler rules compared to baseball, and much easier to follow because of that."
That might be the main difference between Americans and people from countries with a British background. They find baseball mystifying, and we think the same about cricket.
The members of the cricket group hope to move outdoors this summer. Patel said it will happen.
Saxena said outdoor games will be played in Grand Island "if we have the numbers."
If they had to go outside with six or seven players, that would be a sticky wicket.
While they were playing, no one was enjoying a spot of tea, by the way. The sport has gentlemanly origins, and participants still dress in white when playing test matches, which can last up to five days.
More popular matches have come along that take seven or eight hours. Players have also devised many informal versions of cricket that require various numbers of players. In a real match, each side, or team, has 11 players.
Some of the players enjoy watching their favorite sport on cable channels devoted to worldwide cricket.
When Patel was younger, he wore the dress whites of cricket. In India, he was one step below the national team.
In Grand Island, Patel plays softball, volleyball and golf. He enjoys watching baseball.
Saxena, meanwhile, is not interested in baseball.
Bhatt plays cricket for fun and exercise.
Sitting in front of the television, Bhatt will watch the baseball playoffs. But, "I'm a football fan," he said.
Bhatt is a big fan of the Cornhuskers and the New England Patriots. So on a Sunday evening, he'll be watching football, not cricket.
Information from: The Grand Island Independent, http://www.theindependent.com