The Ottumwa Courier

AP Sports

August 19, 2013

Cricket participation growing slowly in Iowa, US

(Continued)

In India, in contrast, five-day matches continue to draw spectators.

In cricket hotbeds, the sport is almost a religious experience. Entire nations take days off when their country competes in major matches.

"It's huge," said Hitesh Kapadia, director of the Indo-American Association of Iowa. "Most cricketers in India, the superstars, are considered demigods."

Today's U.S. cricket leaders are working to accelerate its growth.

"We are trying to create an infrastructure which, by the bare minimum, we can capture those children of expatriates who have drifted to mainstream American sports because there is nowhere for them to play," said Jamie Harrison, president of the U.S. Youth Cricket Association.

"The game will grow exponentially when we expose children to it. The progress is steady, but it's completely dependent upon how many volunteers join the pursuit."

Harrison's agency has created youth programs in several states, primarily those surrounding his home state of Maryland.

But some cricket enthusiasts disagree about how best to grow the sport. Some leaders say cricket evangelism must go beyond exposure to skills development.

Exposure hasn't had "any impact on getting kids to migrate to the sport," said Beazley of USA Cricket. "If you went down to my son's elementary school and showed him soccer, and let him run around a bit, he'd have a fantastic time, but he wouldn't be a soccer player."

USA Cricket has rolled out skills development camps around the country.

"Right now, I think cricket is only scratching the surface," said Beaz-ley, who estimates that 30,000 people play cricket across the country every weekend. "I want to make cricket in America, American. I want American moms and dads to say, 'We think this is a cool way to spend the summer.' "

The weekend Des Moines Cricket League is a family affair for Rajesh Chalamalasetti and his wife, Sanju. Every weekend, the couple pack up their two children and head for the grass cricket field, a makeshift one that sits just north of St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in West Des Moines.

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