IUPUI students get immersed in cricket, the game

Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS — Fans of the game cricket, which is mainly popular overseas, hope Indianapolis becomes an American center for the sport and are celebrating a local university’s effort to train students in the nuances of the sport.

A dozen students at Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis recently completed a “Basics of Cricket” training program that’s prepped them to eventually coach children in the sport, which uses a bat and ball.

The IUPUI students are the first undergraduate physical education students at any U.S. university to receive such training, said Jamie Harrison, president of the United States Youth Cricket Association.

Their training comes as cricket fans in Indianapolis are awaiting next year’s debut of a premier cricket field, known as a pitch, at a revamped Indianapolis park. The $6 million project, pushed by Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard, enabled the city to sign a three-year deal to host a U.S. amateur cricket tournament and championship, starting in August 2014.

While that tournament will showcase skilled cricket players, the sport’s advocates have turned to K-12 schools around the nation to familiarize American youngsters with cricket, just as popularizing soccer at schools took decades of effort.

Harrison said his Maryland-based group has distributed some 1,500 cricket sets during the last three years to school districts that expressed an interest in getting their students to try out the sport that was widely played in the U.S. until the late 19th century. It was overtaken by baseball — an offshoot of cricket.

Harrison hopes the IUPUI training, provided by the Indiana Youth Cricket Association, is just the beginning of efforts at colleges and universities to train PE students in coaching their future students in the sport.

“We have all of these kids who are exposed to cricket but they don’t have enough coaches to teach them the real deal aspects of the game,” he said. “They get this whiff of cricket in school, but then who’s going to organize the teams and help them learn the sport? That’s what this program is about.”

The IUPUI students were part of a course taught by Sandy Barnett, a lecturer with IUPUI’s School of Physical Education and Tourism Management, which exposes students to a variety of sports.

Barnett said her students first studied the rules of cricket online to soak up its rules and familiarize themselves with its equipment.

They were then immersed in demonstrations of the sport and the fine details of its rules by Jatin Patel, president of the Indiana Youth Cricket Association. He brought in the wooden bats, leather balls, helmets and other equipment of the game to show the students in-person how the game is played.

“He certainly got their attention. It was really fun and quite interesting,” said Barnett, who’s considering proposing that IUPUI eventually add an official cricket course.

Patel said the training he provided is part of an effort to reach out to lecturers and instructors involved in training physical education teachers.

“In the future, those PE teachers may be working at one or more schools, but cricket will go with them and this is expected to help to grow the sport,” he said.

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