Mention cricket to most people and they think of England and a sport that predates baseball. Surprisingly the game is alive and well in South Florida and is enjoying increased popularity, with some games being played at Cutler Ridge High School.
Cricket is played in South Florida, primarily by immigrants from the Caribbean and Guyana. Neville Rampersaud, a resident of the Hammocks and a member of the Starlite Cricket Club, explained the background.
“In Guyana we didn’t have football and baseball,” Rampersaud said. “Cricket and soccer were the popular sports. In the league we have about 18 teams and each team has a minimum of 11 players. There is a cricket stadium in Sunrise. That happened a couple of years ago. That was the first official stadium in the States.”
The South Florida Softball Cricket League has games currently scheduled from South Miami-Dade to West Palm Beach, with teams playing each week against each other and traveling around the region. The Starlite Cricket Club was registered officially in 1981 but it underwent an important change in 2003, when the older members of the team decided to make an adjustment.
“There are two versions of cricket,” Rampersaud said. “When we started back in the ’80s we called it professional hardball cricket. What we play now is softball cricket. The ball is the same size, but one is leather and the other one is compressed rubber.”
The clubs count on sponsorship to help defray the costs of their uniforms and membership fees. Tina Doobay of Choice One Mortgage in Cutler Bay and her husband Raj are sponsoring the Starlite Club this year
“My husband is Guyanese and there are several Guyanese players, as well as from other Caribbean countries,” said Tina Doobay. “He does not play, but goes to the games on Sunday to support the community.”
The Starlite Cricket Team played The Miami Royals during a recent game. Rampersaud’s wife, Elaine, explained on her blog page that watching the sport brings back wonderful childhood memories.
“My earliest memory of the game of cricket is of a group of children playing ‘bat and ball’ on the street, in the schoolyard or any open space we could use,” Elaine Rampersaud said. “We had so much fun. This bat and ball game, called cricket, was one of the highlights of my childhood and continues to be even today.”
The game is played on a 22-yard long “pitch” surrounded by a grassy field, with one team fielding and the other team batting. Two batsmen are on either side of the pitch with wickets on both ends. The bowler from the other team bounces the ball to one of the batsmen whose job is to defend his wicket from the ball.
Neville Rampersaud said that while they are doing the best they can with the surface conditions at the borrowed facilities, a dedicated field would be better.
“The field where we play is at Cutler Ridge Senior High,” Rampersaud said. “We’re currently trying to get our own field, but most of the teams are playing at the schools, with permission from the school. Ideally it would be at a park, so that is the next thing we’ll look into.”
For more information about the league and events, you can visit www.sfscl.info