From 6 Members To 300: Cricket Academy Thrives In St. Louis Area
From afar, cricket might look like a slightly tweaked version of baseball. After all, there are hardballs, bats and bases involved. But the intricacies of the game distinguish the sport from America’s pastime.
Invented in England, the sport later spread throughout the world due to the British Empire’s cultural influence on its former colonies in places like Pakistan, Australia and India. And, thanks to the American Cricket Academy and Club, it’s absolutely thriving in the St. Louis region.
On Friday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Sarah Fenske talked to the academy’s founder and president, Ajay Jhamb, about what the sport is all about and how local kids can get involved. Joining the discussion were cricket players Taine Dry, 15, and Pooja Ganesh, 11.
Five years ago, Dry moved with his family from Australia, where cricket is very popular, to St. Louis, and he sought to continue playing the sport rather than switch to another.
“I just had a passion for cricket,” he said on Friday’s program. “Everything about it, you can just do so much: You can be the pitcher and the batter … I'm a batter and [what] we call a catcher. So just the involvement and just that team aspect … you need to depend on your teammates.”
Ganesh became accustomed to the sport while watching it on the television with her family.
“I really wanted to play it because it looked really fun,” she said. While she’s only 11 years old, Ganesh advanced in the sport and competes with kids older than her. In an effort to attract more girls to the sport, the academy offers free registration for them.
“We need more girl cricketers. That is a serious challenge; we don’t have enough,” Jhamb said. “And for me personally and for the academy, that's our dream — to see Pooja wearing and playing for Team USA.”
More than just a sport
What started as a team of six in 2015 has now become a nonprofit organization with more than 300 players involved. But players also dedicate their time by volunteering in the community.
“The key thing for us was [that] we didn't want to just be another cricket club,” Jhamb said. “We wanted to set some founding values and wanted to make sure that this builds a legacy.”
“St. Louis used to have one of the best teams in the early 1900s. Forest Park [had] a cricket lane there, and teams from India, England [and] Australia used to come here and play. So we went through that history with the kids and we said, ‘You know what, we want to do it, and we want to do it right for the long term.’”
He explained that that organization’s three values are character, community and then cricket. The academy prioritizes community service projects — they’ve volunteered at veteran hospitals and food banks, helped raise funds for firefighters, cleaned highways and more. Jhamb said that’s to help teach the kids the value of giving.
Listen to the full conversation:
“St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill, Lara Hamdan and Tonina Saputo. The engineer is Aaron Doerr, and production assistance is provided by Charlie McDonald.
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