Like many recreational sport leagues, they just needed a place to play.
Unlike many recreational sport leagues, the demand unexpectedly bowled its way right onto the pitch.
“I was playing American College Cricket with USF’s (the University of South Florida’s cricket) Club Team, and we won two championships,” Wesley Chapel resident Nagesh Nayak said.
“When I graduated from USF, there was nowhere I could still play. When I was looking for a place to play, I drove by the empty land on Wesley Chapel District Park and proposed (playing there) to the county — (Parks and Recreation Manager) Brian Taylor and (Pasco County Commissioner) Mike Moore — and they said if you want to play, go ahead.
“So we built a pitch, and then (cricket), all of sudden, was in high demand. People kept coming out and it just kept spreading, so more people wanted in.
“It was like a gradual cult,” he said.
Back in 2016, after Nayak built the pitch at the district park, he started Tampa Premier League, which has cricket teams mostly locally, including places such as Wesley Chapel, Tampa and several near USF, but also as far as St. Petersburg.
Initially, there were eight teams.
But demand was so high, more teams were added. The league now has 21 teams.
“I don’t always remember names, but I remember faces,” Nayak said. “I think that everyone remembers everyone else out here. So, they just keep telling more and more people about where they can play cricket.
“Free agents are a big thing with us (at this league), especially someone moving to the area, who might not know anymore,” he said. “So, through the Facebook page and social media and messaging, we help get him on a team in the right area or one that might need him.”
Nayak says about 80% of the league is USF students, however, there are several teams that come from varying workplaces that have formed a team. For instance, one team is made up of Citibank employees; another, of pediatricians and doctors from New Tampa.
The league hosts six games to 10 games per weekend, and each team is guaranteed per season, or series.
Each series can have a different champion, such as Nayak’s team, the Wesley Chapel Legends, which won the Titan Cup V T20 series in November. Another team — the Tampa Avengers — is looking to defend its Tampa Bay Summer 2021 Super 16 Bash by winning this summer’s Wesley Chapel Summer Blazing 16 series.
The Avengers are off to a good start, defeating the St. Pete Shields on June 18 at the district park.
Cricket is the main sport for India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, said Gaurav Samant, an Avengers all-arounder. He bowls (pitches), bats and plays the field.
“Each of those (countries) has some guys out here because it’s something we all share the love of to play. It’s incredible that so many of us love cricket this much.
“And also still great competition.”
Samant is a great bowler, but admits that “everyone wants to bat — everyone.”
“Bowling — people do it, but batting is what everyone looks at — (it’s) where you can entertain the audience,” he said.
Through all the entertainment, the real reason is obvious why all these players brave the heat and play matches throughout the year.
“This is for the love of the game,” Avengers’ coach Balaramraju Kalidindi said. “This is like a hangout for us. It’s pretty serious, but we still enjoy the game. It’s fun hanging out with friends.
“Cricket is one thing that brings us together.”
Tampa Premier League
Info: A cricket league that plays its games at Wesley Chapel District Park on the weekends. The league has varying series all year long and teams are consistently being added. To learn more about the league, visit tampa-cricket.com/TampaCricket.
The Basics of Cricket
During normal cricket play, 13 players and two umpires are on the field. Two of the players are batters and the rest are 11 members of the fielding team. The other nine players in the batting team are off the field in the pavilion.
The bowler, or pitcher, intends to hit the wicket (a set of three wooden stumps and two bails) at the end of the pitch — a 22-yard center part of the field — with the ball or, at least, to prevent the striker, or batter, from scoring runs. The striker, by using his bat, looks to defend his wicket and, if possible, hit the ball away from the pitch in order to score runs. Once the ball is put into play, the striker and the other batter, or non-striker, attempt to score runs by swapping places on the pitch. The fielding team then tries to prevent run scoring by “dismissing” the batters, so they are “out” and are said to have “lost their wicket.”
Means of dismissal include being bowled, when the bowled ball hits the stumps and dislodges the bails, and by the fielding side either catching a hit ball before it touches the ground, or hitting a wicket with the ball before a batter can cross the crease line in front of the wicket to complete a run.
Published July 06, 2022