It’s not often a world championship trophy comes to Milpitas. But it’s even more unusual for a sports-crazed nation to not realize what that championship trophy is…
The Bay Area Cricket Alliance (BACA) is looking to change that.
In September 2018, BACA brought the Cricket World Cup Trophy to Curtner Elementary in Milpitas as part of an initiative to bring cricket into physical education programs in schools across the Bay Area.
Students at Curtner also tried their hand at the popular sport. For many, it was their first time ever picking up cricket bats.
“When the ICC [International Cricket Council] World Cup [trophy] was here, we took it to all the classrooms of Curtner Elementary school in Milpitas and explained to the children what Cricket World Cup is,” said Suraj Viswanathan, president of BACA, a loose organization that holds cricket tournaments in the Bay Area year-round. “Our aim is to have cricket as one of the mainstream sports in America. We want to make the Bay Area as the center for cricket in the USA.”
BACA was founded in 1999 by expats who wished to play cricket in the Bay Area, and to help spread cricket leagues throughout the state. Cricket has taken hold here thanks to the large number of local expats from cricket-crazy countries: India, Pakistan, the UK, Australia, and New Zealand, just to name a few.
Within BACA are over 200 local cricket clubs, including the Milpitas Cricket Club. Clubs meet and participate in two superleagues: the spring league, which runs from late April to November, and the winter league, which runs from late November to early April.
Bay Area schools are just BACA’s first frontier: Baseball’s audience is getting older, and fewer children are taking up the sport. Viswanathan believes cricket school programs establish a happy medium between America’s pastime and its diverse future.
His fellow cricket players aren’t alone either: Milpitas club teams have played with big local names, such as Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.
Soon, however, Viswanathan — in true Silicon Valley fashion — wants to take the sport nationwide.
“We want to see it grow into schools,” Viswanathan said. “We’re starting with a top-down approach and eventually a professional league and [an] NCAA-approved [sport].”
For now, Viswanathan manages the sport locally. He owns Procricshop, a cricket merchandise store on Milpitas Boulevard. There, batters can practice in what Viswanathan calls the “largest indoor cricket batting lane in the West Coast”, as well as sign up for league games played at Murphy Park. Viswanathan has hopes of adding another cricket ground if the city is willing.
“We were in talks with Mayor Esteves in building a cricket ground in Milpitas,” he said. “We’re hoping the city steps in more, even if it is just a batting cage.”
Despite the logistics of popularizing a sport in a country already obsessed with other ones, Viswanathan sees no problem, only a challenge — one his fellow players will take together.
“Cricket is a team sport,” Viswanathan said. “We play with people who are passionate and enjoy the game. It’s like another family to go to.”