Human InterestThe Northern Westchester Examiner

Recreational Cricket Comes to Westchester With First County Pitch

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County officials and cricket enthusiasts cut the ribbon last week near Westchester’s first municipal pitch at Croton Point Park.

Westchester County offers a wide range of sports and activities at its parks and other recreational facilities.

Now, residents can tack on a new sport to watch or even try to play if they’re so inclined.

Last Wednesday, the county unveiled its first cricket pitch at Croton Point Park, converting an underutilized ballfield located beyond the left side of the road shortly after entering the park by car.

County Executive George Latimer and Parks, Recreation and Conservation Commissioner Kathy O’Connor said they were approached by members of Westchester’s highly enthusiastic and engaged cricket community in hopes of carving out space for their beloved sport. After a couple of years of research, officials found what they believe to be the right spot.

“It’s a wonderful example of collaboration. We get asked a lot of different things and get asked to do a lot of different things, but this cricket pitch is something we’ve been talking about for over two years now,” O’Connor said.

“It is a beautiful setting. It’s a bit more independent than being in the middle of some of our other facilities and I think it’s going to be a home run,” she added.

Conversion of the ball field consisted of adding cement slabs to the existing surface and determining the right padding for the turf, according to the county’s Parks, Recreation and Conservation Department. Several samples of turf were tested to learn which gave the best bounce to the ball.

Cricket is the world’s second most popular sport behind soccer, said Dinkal Patel, the founder of the Cricket Clubs of Westchester. It is most popular in South Asia, the West Indies and in England and Australia.

A pitch is 22 yards long and about four feet wide, where a player similar to a pitcher, “bowls” a ball and a batter hits it toward wickets in the ground. Although aspects of the sport vaguely resemble baseball, the field of play is typically a circle or oval that is about 75 feet across, Patel explained.

He said the idea behind the Cricket Clubs of Westchester has been to establish locations around the county where cricket can be played to steadily introduce the sport to new audiences, including children.

“This is the beginning. We want to have more and more cricket grounds so that everyone plays, not just the immigrant community, not just the Asian community,” Patel said. “We want to respond to everyone. This is a game that you come together as a team and definitely have fun.”

While cricket is immensely popular in certain communities, the drive to get a dedicated playing surface in Westchester kicked into high gear during the pandemic, said Dr. Vikas Agrawal, one of the sport’s ambassadors in Westchester, who attended the May 24 press conference at Croton Point Park.

Agrawal said with so many people spending all their time indoors in isolation during the pandemic, cricket served as a way for some people to get out and get some fresh air and exercise while social distancing.

Patel said his organization is encouraging women to participate to have the entire family involved. Previously, it would be tradition for the men to go out and play on Sunday morning, but the wives and children would stay home, he said.

On Saturday, June 17, the Cricket Clubs of Westchester will host the Shakti Cup at Delfino Park in White Plains, a tournament for women’s teams, he said.

Veenitah Bokaria, who has taken up cricket and will play in that tournament, said the sport is fun and one that a growing number of women look forward to playing. It’s also a way for women to have recreation.

“The only time we find for ourselves is to get our nails done,” Bokaria said.

Women who either play or used to play softball might be interested in giving cricket a chance, she added.

Latimer said he’s hopeful that the pitch, like sports in general, will help unite people in a fun setting regardless of differences.

“Hopefully, this cricket pitch, while the competition will be intense, there will be a couple of moments I’m sure, but it will bring us together, and Lord knows, in this world we need to be brought together more often,” Latimer said.

The cricket pitch can be rented in one- and two-hour blocks. For reservations, fees and more information, call the Westchester County Parks permit office at 914-231-4575.




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