By Ernie Williamson
It has not quite achieved the fanatical growth of pickleball, but cricket is gaining in popularity.
And you will never guess where.
“In the Land of Football, a Cricket Oasis Rises Outside of Houston.”
So read the headline in the New York Times.
According to the Times, a surging population of South Asian immigrants in Houston’s suburbs has fueled the growth of the sport that was born in Britain and baffles most Americans.
The number of people of Indian heritage in Texas has doubled over the last decade to a half a million, according to estimates from the Census Bureau’s annual survey, including 73,000 in Harris County and 64,000 in Fort Bend County.
“One of the unknown things about Houston is the diversity of the population from many cricket-playing nations,” Tim Cork, deputy consul general at the British consulate in Houston told the Times. “There are Indians, Pakistanis, there’s obviously a huge number of Brits here, and Australian accents wherever you go.”
Fort Bend County Judge KP George says when he first came to this country the only sport he knew was cricket.
George, who immigrated to this country from India in 1993, says when he was elected in 2018, none of the county parks had a cricket field. Now there are seven, and each is reserved for play months in advance.
In Brazoria County, Pearland has added cricket fields at The Sports Complex at Shadow Creek Ranch, and a cricket club has been formed to schedule tournaments.
And if you are driving Pearland’s back roads, you may notice a stadium that doesn’t quite resemble any of the high school football stadiums dotting the area.
Smart Choice Moosa Stadium is a privately owned cricket stadium that has hosted international cricket competition.
Despite cricket’s presence in Pearland, the county parks department says so far there is little demand in the rest of the county for cricket fields. The department concentrates on other activities such as hiking, camping, fishing, birding and boating.
Cricket shows early signs of becoming not just a curiosity, but a business opportunity.
Major League Cricket has formed and began its inaugural season several weeks ago. The Texas Super Kings are one of the six teams.
The league’s draft was held at the Johnson Space Center, and a preseason camp was held at Moosa Stadium.
The league is attracting investors, including Ross Perot Jr., son of the former independent presidential candidate. He is an owner of the Super Kings.
Houston businessman Tanweer Ahmed is taking a huge Field-of-Dreams gamble on the growth of the sport.
Along a major highway in Prairie View, Ahmed is flattening a swath of farmland into cricket fields.
The land was selected, according to the Times, because it had the right kind of soil for the grass pitch.
Although the area has few cricket aficionados or South Asian residents, Ahmed hopes if he builds it, they will come.
As for Prairie View, the cash-strapped town is hoping future cricket tournaments will become a revenue stream.
(Contact Ernie at email@example.com. Or, send letters in care of The Bulletin, PO Box 2426, Angleton, TX. 77516)