Next to soccer, with its estimated global following of four billion fans, cricket is the world’s next biggest sport, with a following of 2.5 billion people worldwide. It is one of the fastest-growing sports in North America, according to Powell River resident Alex Rawnsley.
In March, Rawnsley, originally from Australia, and a small group of expatriates from cricket-playing nations such as South Africa, England, India and Pakistan, as well as some locals, started playing indoors at Oceanview Learning Centre.
“We’ve probably had about 15 to 20 guys come out and give it a go,” said Rawnsley. “It’s been a good laugh and a chance for guys who grew up playing it as kids to get back into it, and it’s been a good chance for a few Canadians to try something new as well.”
Cricket is not new to Powell River. It was first played here in the mid-1900s when foreign ships arrived to take on paper products from the mill. Visiting crews put on exhibitions of their country’s sports, including cricket.
Rawnsley and his mates are hoping to overcome any skepticism about the sport and bring it back to the mainstream in Powell River.
“A lot of people will say, ‘Oh, that goes on for days,’ and, yes, that’s true, some formats of the game can go up to five days,” he said. “But the format we’re playing is about three or four hours.”
Until the group becomes large enough, current players are showing up at Oceanview on Sunday evenings to practice skills and have a fun hit and bowl, or pitch, without playing a full game, said Rawnsley. The biggest shock for newcomers to the game, he added, is catching the ball barehanded.
“We’ve been playing indoors with a softer ball,” he said. “If someone gets a hold of that with a line drive it doesn’t hurt, but it stings for a little bit.”
Rawnsley added that it does not take long for the first-time players to toughen up.
Cricket players get one at bat, unlike baseball, which the game is often compared to, and a home run does not hold the same importance.
“A lot of the Canadians are trying for that home-run hit and they’re caught immediately,” said Rawnsley. “The best approach to cricket is to set aside a baseball mentality.”
Rawnsley said Powell River’s cricketers have already booked a game on Vancouver Island toward the end of June against the Arrowhead Cricket Club from Qualicum Beach.
For more information, go to Powell River Cricket Club on Facebook.