THIS WEEK’S STORY on Samoan cricket was inspired by a stroll I took a few years ago in Jefferson Park. I was puzzled by all the people running around in sarongs (I now know they’re called ie lavalava), playing a game that seemed unfamiliar.
I chatted with a few players, who explained that it really was cricket — just Samoan-style.
But if I had spent more time in Eastside communities such as Redmond and Bellevue, I wouldn’t have been as surprised. Cricket is far from new to the area and is, in fact, undergoing a major boom.
“I’ve seen tremendous growth in the last three years,” says Vishwa Gaddamanugu, whose TotallyIn2Cricket academy in Redmond trains kids in the sport. Last year, almost 400 children signed up for courses. The number of teams playing a scaled-down version called tennis ball cricket has grown from 50 in 2006 to nearly 200 today. Another 40 teams play the English-style game.
The upswing tracks the influx of people from India, Pakistan and other countries where cricket mania reigns, drawn here by the tech industry and the area’s red-hot economy. Like expats everywhere — including Seattle’s Samoan community and Americans abroad — they bring with them the game they played as children, the game that reminds them of home.
Though thoroughly British in its origins, cricket has proved particularly adaptable. The Samoan version, kirikiti, is among the world’s most radical variations, but other cultures have changed the game, as well. Kids playing in the streets of cities like Calcutta and Karachi pioneered the use of tennis balls wrapped in electrical tape. “If you take a regular cricket ball and try to play in the street, you are going to injure somebody or break windows,” Gaddamanugu says. A game that traditionally ran several days isn’t practical in the modern world, so most teams now play one of several, shorter versions.
Gaddamanugu says he hopes cricket will eventually be integrated into some school sports programs. If that happens in enough U.S. cities, perhaps a professional league wouldn’t be far behind. Is it too early to start thinking about what to call Seattle’s team?