Cricket is coming.

No, it’s not a bug invasion or a new wireless company. It’s the second most-played sport in the world, and people might soon see it played in Fox Valley Park District parks.

The district is looking at bringing in the Bolingbrook Premier League as a new affiliate to help develop a cricket program. Jim Pilmer, Park District executive director, said the district could accommodate the Bolingbrook-based organization at several facilities, particularly the Stuart Sports Complex on Jericho Road in Montgomery.

Mir Ali, founder and president of the Bolingbrook Premier League, said it is a perfect partnership to expand an organization that already has about 1,000 kids and adults playing cricket in Chicago’s western suburbs.

“It’s got a lot of traction,” Ali said. “Our numbers have practically quadrupled and more and more Park Districts are trying to cater to our needs.”

Fox Valley would join such places as Bolingbrook, Plainfield and Naperville, which provide fields for the cricket association, and even for international tournaments, such as the Liberty Cup, which featured professional players and teams from around the world this past Fourth of July weekend.

Right now, the Park District would provide fields and the Bolingbrook group would organize the program, said Pilmer, who admitted he did not even know what shape a cricket field was until he talked to Ali.

For the record, it’s round — about 140 yards in diameter. The game is set up in the middle of the circle, which means it’s played in 360 degrees. And the end result is not so different from a popular American game, in that the point is to score as many runs as possible.

In fact, Ali points out that baseball was born, in part, from cricket, which has been played in America for years. America and Canada have been playing a cup series for more than 100 years.

Most of the world touched by the British Empire plays cricket, which is why it is popular in India, Pakistan, Australia, some Caribbean islands — and England, of course. Ali, who was born in Pakistan but raised in America, said it was immigrants from those countries who first fueled his organization.

But he said he now gets kids of all kinds who play baseball and soccer, and now cricket.

The Bolingbrook league, which just had its league final Sunday and garnered about 50,000 viewers on Facebook live, has about 200 youths on 25 daytime teams, and 18 nighttime teams, and between 700 and 800 adults playing on 35 teams.

Ali recently helped form a youth team in Chicago that now has 700 kids playing in it.

“We cater to a lot of kids, but we’re falling short of facilities,” he said. “The last thing we want to do is turn kids away.”

Ali, who sits on the board for cricket’s Team USA, said there are about 250,000 cricket players nationwide, and about 15 million fans. He said cricket in America is about where soccer was in American about 10 years ago.

“They did a great job promoting themselves,” he said.

One of the things that turns people off of cricket is the length of the games, Ali said. They see or hear of international games taking five days. But here, the game is based on a pitch count — yes, there are pitches in cricket — and so take about three hours or less.

slord@tribpub.com


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