The sport of cricket has become a quiet mainstay in Baytown.
The Baytown Cricket Club has made sure of that over most of this decade as it continues to grow and compete in the Houston Cricket League.
Umang Gupta is the captain for both the 40-overs Praxair Xi squad and the Baytown CL 20-over team and has been since the days of having to play with tennis balls and the creation of their own pitch at the Wayne Gray Sports Complex.
“They are making more playing grounds and it is growing in Houston,” Gupta said. “Cricket in Baytown is still going up.”
An “over” consists of six balls bowled – similar to pitching in baseball. Consecutive overs are delivered from opposite ends of the pitch. A bowler may not bowl two consecutive overs.
Runs are scored when the two batsmen run to each other’s end of the pitch. Several runs can be scored from one ball. Scoring can occur in a myriad of ways with the most that can score on one at-bat is six.
A team has 10 outs before being bowled out.
“This is the only game with three different formats,” club president Sanjay Pipalia said. “The current World Cup that’s going on in England is the one-day (50 or 40 overs) version. The first one was the five-day version, called a test match. The newest, shortest version is the T20 – the 20-over game – they wanted American people to take part. People don’t have the patience to watch a game in five days or even one day. The 20-over version is good for those who want to play for three hours.
“The shortest version made it possible for more people now to be more familiar and especially in the states. The T20 game is definitely more offensive to make it more interesting.”
Currently they are in playing 40s cricket in the HCL and about to wrap up the first half of that season before segueing into the 20-over, short season, that begins in August. The 40-over season will resume in late September.
“I attribute the growth to the multinational peoples coming into this area,” Pipalia said. “We have people from Australia, the Caribbean and other nations where cricket is played a lot. It is also more diverse with more people knowing about it. There are people from Pakistan and India playing and more coming to play.”
The club currently has over 30 players regularly taking to the cricket pitch. That’s good for now, but the recognition for the sport is not enough.
“The popularity is good, but the growth is not there yet,” Pipalia said. “We need the younger kids to get involved so we can pass it on. They are not getting involved in the game. They don’t play cricket because they don’t see it being played. To get more people involved, more things need to be done at the school level.”
Pipalia hopes to get to regional school districts in hopes of spreading the word of cricket.
Currently, Praxair Xi is in ninth place of the 21-team Division III standings holding on to a 4-3-1 record with its next match coming at 10 a.m. Sunday against Ccc R in Baytown.
“We’ve been doing pretty good,” Gupta said. “We hope to improve later on.”
The 20-over game, Gupta said, is the club’s main focus this season.
“They work really hard and they hope to get on the top of the league,” he said.
If they finish in the top two of the standings, a team would be promoted to Division 2. The bottom two teams in a division are relegated to a lower one.
“Absolutely we have the guys who can push us to the top two finish,” Pipalia said.