The Ottumwa Courier

AP Sports

August 19, 2013

Cricket participation growing slowly in Iowa, US

WEST DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Rajesh Chalamalasetti has an alter ego.

During the week, the 36-year-old husband and father of two works in Principal Financial Group's marketing department, building statistical models to predict conditions that optimize the company's products for its customers.

But on weekends, Chalamalasetti is captain of the Avengers.

The Des Moines Register reports ( ) Chalamalasetti plays in a weekend cricket league in West Des Moines with others from his native India, and countries in Asia and Africa. Chalamalasetti said the league lets him preserve some of the culture he grew up with in Hyderabad, in central India.

Cricket also has allowed Chalamalasetti to get to know his co-workers better, feeding their curiosity every Monday when they ask about his team's performance.

"I think sports has that magic where you can connect with people and talk the same common language," he said. "That is what helps us assimilate with not only our Indian community, but others here in the U.S."

The Des Moines Cricket League is now in its third season, but the eight-team league is more organized this year and for the first time will hold postseason competition, in September, league officials say.

The sport permeates every aspect of Indian culture, and sharing that with U.S. colleagues and friends has helped boost the sport's popularity in the metro, said Rafeeq Shaik, a league co-founder and teammate of Chalamalasetti, who works as an information specialist at Farmers Mutual Hail Insurance. The league, in turn, has built unity among the area's Indian community.

"Growing up, every Indian is dreaming of cricket," Shaik said. "We have varied cultures in the country, but the one unifying factor is cricket. Regardless of class or creed, the passion for cricket is very high."

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