The game of cricket

Josh Lane, assistant park manager of the Indianapolis World Sports Park & Banquet Center, recently steered a golf cart over damp terrain, and headed toward the center’s latest project— a cluster of multipurpose fields, including one devoted to cricket.

As Lane and a reporter paused atop the hill looking down upon the lush, high-tech turf laid down at 1313 S. Post Road, he briefly explained the game of cricket while teams from Bermuda and Canada battled for a championship spot.

“I’ve learned quite a bit about the game (of cricket) just by watching,” he said.

In 2014, speculation arose about a $5 million dollar cricket field located in Indianapolis. While many residents hoped the project wouldn’t come to life, in October of 2014, the big renovation took over the World Sports Park.

“This was the mayor’s (Greg Ballard) initiative and this was his big push,” said Annette Harden park manager at World Sports Park. “We had a lot of backlash from community members and organizations from the city saying ‘why are we spending our money on this when we need other things?’ It’s my job to really program these fields to earn revenue. I always tell people ‘cricket is only a small portion of what we’re doing,’ but the media spun it as just a cricket field.” The park also offers space for lacrosse, hurling and rugby.

Although Indiana is known to have a deep love for basketball, relatively few residents are well versed on the game of cricket. The sport enjoys popularity in South Africa, the West Indies and England.

It is a team sport comprised of about 11 players each and a typical game can last anywhere from one afternoon to several days.

The sport is similar to baseball in nature where teams bat in innings and attempt to score runs, while the opposing team fields and attempts to bring an end to the batting team’s innings. After each team has batted an equal number of innings, the team with the most runs wins.

Last year, the park was due to host the U.S. American Cricket Association’s (USCA) tournament, but during the planning stages, the city pulled its contract.

“They had drama which then affected our ability to run the tournament. Half way through, their main person left and went to Australia so there was a way the city could pull out of the contract,” Harden candidly explained. Media reports stated that the breakdown between the groups began after U.S. cricket director Darren Beazley stepped down in March.

Currently World Sports Park is hosting the Americas Twenty20 Division One Cricket Tournament, which ran May 3-5 and will resume May 7-9.

Harden said the International Cricket Council, who is involved in the current tournament wanted the event to unfold with little publicity, but Indy Parks felt they had to inform the public of the tournament due to last year’s cancellation.

With the weather warming and the sun making an appearance, Harden said the tournament brought about 60 people to a recent game.

Although some now welcome the idea of a high-class cricket field into the city, some still wonder if the park and fields are bringing in any income.

According to Harden, from 2014-2015, the facility’s increase in revenue was 29 percent, which is about $20,000. At the time, the new fields were nonexistent so the staff is hopeful they will bring in additional revenue.

“Just within four rentals on the field, we’ve already surpassed that (29 percent increase) so the projections for this coming year will be great,” said Harden, adding that she hopes this eases community concern.

The facility plans to complete an economic impact report soon to detail what teams have visited, and what hotel and amenities are used.

In addition to sports, the facility offers several banquet halls, some seating more than 200 people.

While contracted teams, clubs and individuals can strictly use the facility a variety of fitness classes are available for free to the public, including a 1.2 mile walking trail.

For more information on World Sports Park & Banquet Center, visit their Facebook page by searching “Indianapolis World Sports Park & Banquet Center.”

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