For Indian-Americans living in the Greater Buffalo area of New York, July 16, was a landmark day, when they proudly inaugurated their newly acquired rights to park land for the first cricket pitch in Erie County in upstate New York. Now the scores of residents and students who suffered broken bones or abrasions in past years while playing in parking lots and hard ground, can expect an enjoyable game on the grass at Ellicott Creek Park in the town of Tonawanda, N.Y.
The India Association of Buffalo tried out the county’s first and only cricket pitch Sunday afternoon. Until then, the group’s 35 teams had played on parking lots near schools and apartment complexes. But roughly seven months after approaching the county about adding a dedicated field for the popular game, members were already bowling their first balls and running between the wickets.
“The Erie County parks are for everybody. There are hundreds of cricket players that now have a safe place to play and this is going to open up the sport for others,” said Mark C. Poloncarz, county executive. “This is going to grow, without a doubt.”
The simple patch of clay surrounded by soft grass means much more to the Indian-American community in Erie County than a place to play a game. It’s an acknowledgement of the region’s sizable Indian-American community and the sport that is so closely tied to their cultural identity.
Close to 275 people came for the inauguration including County Executive Mark Poloncarz, and senior Parks Department officials. The prize came after 7 months of negotiations with the County Executive office and Parks authorities, led by the India Association of Buffalo (IAB). The current president of IAB, Sibu Nair, told the media that to-date, despite the lack of a dedicated space for cricket, some 35 to 40 teams met every year to play cricket in the Buffalo area. Now they can use the dedicated park grounds where the community expects to convert the soft pitch to a concrete one after raising enough funds.
So far the IAB has raised $6,000, and that will be used for building a concrete pitch 99 feet by 10 feet which is estimated to cost around $6,500. They also want some bleachers for those coming to watch the games, and a scoreboard, as well as some fencing that could prevent cricket balls being lost in the waters of the creek that runs nearby. The Parks Department will keep up the grass cutting and garbage disposal, and it has already helped roll the soft pitch for the games that avid cricketers are itching to play on, Buffalo News reported.