Cary News

International Cricket Council leaders visit Morrisville for potential tournament site

Morrisville Mayor Mark Stohlman demonstrates his cricket skills as Morrisville Council member Liz Johnson looks on. Morrisville leaders hosted International Cricket Council officials Monday, Nov. 16, at Church Street Park, where the town has a regulation cricket field. ICC officials came to Morrisville to scout out potential tournament sites.
Morrisville Mayor Mark Stohlman demonstrates his cricket skills as Morrisville Council member Liz Johnson looks on. Morrisville leaders hosted International Cricket Council officials Monday, Nov. 16, at Church Street Park, where the town has a regulation cricket field. ICC officials came to Morrisville to scout out potential tournament sites. wdoran@newsobserver.com

The town’s new regulation-size cricket field, along with its diversity, hotels, sports fans and proximity to an international airport, could help Morrisville land an international cricket tournament.

Officials from the International Cricket Council stopped by Morrisville in mid-November to visit the town’s new $5.2 million Church Street Park, which has the only regulation-size cricket field within hundreds of miles.

Morrisville, which has experience hosting national tournaments, is one of nine cities officials are visiting around the country this fall as they scout locations for future competitions.

Morrisville’s population of about 25,000 people makes it the smallest town under consideration. The next-smallest is Fort Lauderdale, Fla., with 165,000 people. Some the country’s biggest metro areas – New York, L.A., Dallas and Chicago – also are being considered.

“Every city we’ve been to wants to bring in ‘Big Cricket,’ ” said Tim Anderson, the head of global development for the International Cricket Council.

Anderson, who is based in Dubai, was in Morrisville with other ICC officials from Toronto and Chicago. They heard from local leaders, toured the field and hosted a town hall style meeting attended by about 40 people. A similar meeting in Chicago drew 85 people.

It’s Anderson’s job to grow cricket around the world, and he’s particularly focused on the United States, where the USA Cricket Association, the main cricket organization, was suspended this summer. That’s why the ICC is getting involved to scout out sites for potential tournaments around the country.

“There’s not a lot of good cricket grounds in America, and you guys, you’ve got one,” Anderson told Morrisville leaders and cricket fans. “There’s a lot of energy. And that’s why we’re here.”

Cricket fans

Mayor Mark Stohlman, who is an active member of the Triangle Cricket League along with council member TJ Cawley, used Monday’s meeting to tout Morrisville and the community’s enthusiasm.

While cricket may not be familiar to many, people in Morrisville are passionate about it, especially the large Indian population. There are several leagues in the area for adults and children. A Cricket World Cup semifinal earlier this year between India and Australia brought nearly 1,000 people to a local Hindu temple to watch it live in the middle of the night.

A handful of local children play on national youth teams, including 14-year-old Smit Doshi, a student at West Cary Middle School. His father, Pinku Doshi, installed an artificial wicket in their backyard so they can practice.

Pinku Doshi said Morrisville hosting a tournament could do wonders for developing young players, for the local economy and for the town’s name recognition.

“People are willing to travel from the West Coast to the East Coast,” he said.

For example, Vishal Tiku, who attended Monday’s meeting, was on a business trip in Charlotte and decided to drive to Morrisville to meet other cricket fans. He is chairman of the Arizona Cricket Association.

“It’s all about youth development,” he said of his hopes for the future of cricket in America.

Morrisville is nearly 30 percent Asian, mostly of southeast Asian descent. Satish Garimella, the town council’s newest member, remembers his childhood in Mumbai, India, where cricket was dominant. He and his friends even had a secret sound they would make outside one anothers’ homes – a code that said it’s time to ditch homework and sneak out to play.

The field Morrisville built, however, is far grander than what Garimella grew up playing on. On Monday, ICC officials said it’s the kind of place where they could imagine hosting international friendlies or other major events.

While the most important part of the field isn’t built yet – the strip of land that holds the wickets, batsmen and bowlers – the visiting officials’ initial impression is that Morrisville can compete with anyone. There’s no timeline for when the field will be finished, and ICC officials don’t have immediate plans to announce a tournament following their fact-finding tour.

“This is beautiful,” said Anderson, the global development head who has international playing experience as well. “We were saying – we’re all from Australia – and this would be a good cricket ground in Australia.”

Doran: 919-460-2604; Twitter: @will_doran

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