PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY, Md. - It is the second-most popular sport in the world and played virtually everywhere but the United States. But Prince George’s County in Maryland is hoping to change all that with the nation's first-ever elementary and middle school cricket league.
When you look at it, baseball and cricket are sporting cousins.
“You use a bat, you use a ball,” said cricket coach Maxwell Solomon. “In baseball, you pitch. In cricket, you bowl."
“You don't have to worry about hitting foul balls or anything,” said one student. “You just hit it wherever you want.”
There are basic similarities, but one big difference between the two bat and ball sports is the opportunity for young players in the United States. Over 400,000 kids have the opportunity to play in 6,500 Little League programs for baseball. But for kids who want to play cricket, there is only one elementary and middle school league in the country and that is in Prince George’s County.
“My kid came and said, 'Dad, there's cricket in school!'” recalled Solomon. “Cricket in school? What are you talking about?”
“It's exciting for me because that is the form of the cricket that I used to play back in India,” said parent Vieyasagar Cheedi.
This league isn't just for families that grew up with the game.
"I knew it was a world sport, so that was intriguing,” said Donna Garland. “I was like, “Alright, let’s see how this work.’ In the first year, we had cheat sheets. All of the parents had cheat sheets and we would all sit on the sidelines looking at the sheet thinking, ‘Was that good?’”
The parents have learned along with their kids and now they know the game – without the help of their cheat sheets.
Now that their kids have experienced the game, they would rather play with flat bats and bare hands than with gloves and pads.
“I think it's really fun, better than baseball,” said Garland’s son, Isiah. “I wouldn't play any other sport. If it came down to a decision, if my parents asked me to play football or cricket, I would play cricket.”
The kids taking part in the first-ever Prince George’s County Cricket Championship are joining a community far bigger than the 22 schools in the league this year. They are joining a community of 2.5 billion cricketers worldwide.
“It is a world sport and they can go to a country far, far away and still understand this sport,” said Donna. “It's so cool.”
“You get enough drama and excitement that you just have to love it,” said Isiah.