WESLACO, RGV – Cricket lovers in the Rio Grande Valley say they are talking to Pharr Mayor Ambrosio Hernandez about having a permanent ground to play on, one that has floodlights.
Hernandez tossed the coin to start a recent league game in a four-week tournament organized by the India Association of the Rio Grande Valley (IARGV).
By witnessing action in the early part of the game, Hernandez got a good idea of what size a cricket ground is, said Bino John, captain of one of the teams in the tournament.
“We went to a meeting with Mayor Hernandez a couple of weeks ago. He is trying to get some land over in Pharr, with floodlights, so we can play evening games too. It is really good of him to work on this,” John said.
K.V. Kanneganti chairs the IARGV’s sports committee. He reiterated that having a quality cricket ground with floodlights is what the group is looking for.
“We are trying to get a new ground with floodlights, that is our goal. It would allow the players to practice in the evening. It is pretty hot in the Valley and the evenings are cooler. So that is a good time to practice. I think we can make it happen next year,” Kanneganti said.
Kanneganti hastened to add that IARGV is very happy with the City of Weslaco for providing a ground to play on at the Harlan Block Sports Complex. “Weslaco is doing a good job for us,” he said.
Kanneganti, an Indian national who works in the medical industry, moved to the Valley two years ago.
“We have seven teams in our league, which shows cricket is growing in the Valley. For those of us from India, it is a great way to get to know each other and make friends. We want more people involved,” he said.
Saweed Watud lives in Edinburg and works for a manufacturing company. An umpire and a player, Waited has been involved in the IARGV’s cricket tournament since its inception.
“When we explained to Mayor Hernandez the nature of the field, he was not getting it. But, once he came here to see the game he got a good idea of what type of field we are looking for. He was very positive. We are keeping our fingers crossed,” Watud said.
Cricket is the No. 1 sport in the Indian subcontinent. Most of the cricket lovers playing in the IARGV league are from the subcontinent, foreign nationals from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh that now call the Valley home. The vast majority are from India.
Watud gave a shoutout to IARGV.
“I really appreciate what IARGV has done in bringing all of us together. It is a blessing. It is fun. We like to stay within the spirit of cricket,” Watud said.
“It would be wonderful if we could get local lads involved. I can guarantee you, those people who can swing a baseball, they can be coached. They will like it. At the beginning it might look confusing but they will like it. I think if we could have night games, it would bring more crowds.”
The game Mayor Hernandez started to watch was played by a team of Indian nationals and a team of Pakistan nationals. The Pakistani team won a tightly contested game by taking the decisive last wicket in the last over of the game.
“This is what great cricket is all about. Having games go to the last over,” said John, who captained the Indian team.
The captain of the victorious side was Irfan Rana. He said he and his colleagues have been playing in a cricket league in the Valley for the past seven years.
“When you have a busy life and you still have the time to play your own game, it is good. We are very grateful to the City of Weslaco for providing this wonderful ground,” Rana said.
“Our team comprises ten players from Pakistan and one from the West Indies, Jamaica. We have been a runner-up in a semi-final and a final. So, hopefully we can go on better this year.”
Rana said one of the teams in the league calls itself the World IX, because it has players from five different countries, including South Africa, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and India.
Asked if there are any players from England, Rana joked: “There is no one from England, because of the weather. It is so hot. But, we did have someone from England and someone from Australia come and watch us once,” he said, referring to two of the stronger cricket-playing nations.
Rana has been in the Valley for 17 years and is a math teacher at IDEA McAllen.
“Most of the players are doctors and businessmen. We love cricket, it keeps us together, this cricketing bond,” Rana said. “The Valley has given us a home. I am very thankful for the Valley, the people are very welcoming.”
Sucheta Reddy is a former secretary of the IARGV. She was born in Hyderabad, India, and has been a cricket lover all her life.
“Cricket has always been my favorite sport. We always cheered for India in every tournament that went on, including the World Cup,” she said.
Reddy, who manages a group of pediatric specialists in McAllen, moved to the Valley four years ago and quickly became an active member of IARGV. She was announcer of the scores in the game Mayor Hernandez attended.
“It is a lot of hard work, putting this league together. We put in at least four to five months of planning. We get the captains together, plan all the rules of the games. Even the registration starts three months earlier, so we can get all the teams and all the sponsors. We have six or seven sponsors that sponsor us for the tournament. We have had four sponsors that have sponsored us for the last four or five years.”
Asked how the game of cricket unites the Valley’s Indian population, Reddy said:
“Cricket is something that brings the whole community together. I barely knew ten people when I started organizing the tournament. I started to know almost 140 players and the audience we get for the semi-finals and finals is almost 350 people. So, we get to know everybody on a personal level. Everybody loves to watch cricket so it brings the community together. That is the beauty of the game, even as players, everybody gets together in a unified spirit.”
Like other players interviewed by the Rio Grande Guardian, Reddy said she would love to see more Valley natives play cricket and attend the games.
“We would love to see them come, watch and enjoy the games. Let’s make it big in the Valley,” she said.
“They play baseball here, which has different rules, and people must think, what is cricket all about. Once you get used to the rules of cricket, you will love it, you will enjoy it.”
Dr. Subramaniam Jagadeesan also umpired the game between the Indian and Pakistan teams. Originally hailing from Tamil Nadu state in southern India, Jagadeesan now lives in Mission, Texas.
“I love everything to do with cricket. I play for one team and umpire two. I follow cricket wherever it is played in the world. This is the fifth season we have been running the league. I been involved in all five seasons so far. It has grown from strength to strength.”
Jagadeesan said that thanks to cricket he has become a close friend of a player from Bangladesh.
“We have players from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, South Africa, West Indies, and some that travel up from Monterrey, Mexico. It is a real League of Nations. We have one local person who is a baseball player who is now playing in our league. We are proud of that and we want more local players. We want the second generation from our land to play too.”