The Grand Rapids XI
started its second season last week with a win over last
year's Division II champions, the Greater Detroit
It was the Grand Rapids club's first game at its new
home field at Earl Brewer Park, 399 84th in Gaines Township.
The team's second game, for those whose curiousity
might be piqued, is 10:30 a.m. today (June 14th). Congressman Vern Ehlers, R-Grand Rapids, is expected to be
on hand to cut the ribbon for the grand opening of the new
"ground," and a luncheon and meet-and-greet will
follow the match.
[The ground was inaugurated the next day as the reporter wrote - The official grand opening
ceremony was held on June 14 during a break in the match against the Novi
Republican congressman Vern Ehlers and state representative Kevin
Green (Wyoming and Byron Township) were on hand for the ribbon-cutting
ceremony and to help celebrate the opening of Grand Rapids XI's new
home grounds at 399 84th St. SE. Players and their families joined
spectators for a potluck luncheon afterward, during which Ilahi
expressed his joy of the occasion with a warm smile.
"It feels way too good, you know what I mean," beamed Ilahi. "There
is no feeling about it; to have our own dream, our home-field
advantage. It feels great, no travel time for at least these last two
weeks, and now we've gotta travel again next week."
The Michigan Cricket Association, the governing body to which the
Grand Rapids XI belongs, is equally thrilled that teams from such
diverse locales as Detroit, Lansing, Kalamazoo, Holland will be able to
travel to Grand Rapids to prove their mettle in front of a West
"We are pleased that Grand Rapids got a ground this year," said
MichCA official and governing body member Aazer Medhora. "They all
worked really hard, especially Fahad and his teammates. They have put
in an awesome effort, and I really congratulate them for having the
ground go in here. And also the Michigan Cricket Association, for which
the Grand Rapids team plays. We are proud of their achievement."]
Before Earl Brewer Park became the home ground and GRXI
became a member of the 7-year-old Michigan Cricket
Association, local enthusiasts played at Cascade Township
Park, using a tennis ball.
"There's so much passion for this sport back
home," said Fahad Ilahi, a 25-year-old Pakistan native
and Kentwood resident. "There's millions of
viewers all over the world. "I played tennis and all
that, but I didn't see any cricket being played in
The GRXI consists of players from Pakistan, England, India
and the U.S. Team member Carl Whitehouse, 41, of Byron
Township, played his first game in about 22 years. He is a
native of Birmingham, England, where he played until he was
"I've always had a love for the game,"
Whitehouse said. "You have to work as a team in this
sport. You can't work as an individual. It's
called the gentleman's game."
Gentlemanly, sure. But do not mistake that for soft. Only
two players from each team play with gloves: the batsman and
the wicket keeper (the equivalent of a catcher).
The ball is about the size of a baseball and is made of cork
with a leather surface. It can mean sore digits for
"It's a man's game," said Aamir Ismail,
a native of Pakistan and resident of Grand Rapids. "One
of our guys has a broken finger, as a matter of fact."
Lest you think attending a match requires burning a
week's worth of vacation, Ismail explains the newest
version of the sport, "twenty20," is the one
played here and is becoming popular internationally. Unlike
the five-day "test" matches played abroad,
"twenty20" lasts about three hours, Ismail said.
Every innings consists of overs. An over ends after six
legal deliveries thrown by the same bowler (think pitcher).
The bowlers, Ismail said, use different styles -- some focus
on speed, others on spin. The ball must bounce once before
reaching the batsman, and each team uses five or six bowlers
in a twenty20 match.
"We don't want to damage anyone's arm,"
Players place a high premium on protecting the body. The
team recruited a chiropractor, Dr. George Sloma of Schpiro
Family Chiropractic at 3226 28th St. SE in Kentwood, to keep
While the impact of cricket is not as fierce as rugby, Sloma
said it is more intense than baseball.
"In baseball, there's only one at bat -- three
strikes and you're out," Sloma said. "Whereas
the batter (in cricket) is there consecutively. It is a lot
of torquing on the spine."
Bowlers get a running start and throw overhead using the
arm's full range of motion, which presents a different
set of potential injuries.
"There is a lot of force on the shoulder, which is the
most susceptible joint for injury," Sloma said.
Batsmen strike the ball from the ground up rather than
starting at their shoulders. Runs can be scored a variety of
ways, perhaps the most simple for Americans to grasp is
hitting the ball outside the circular field without it
taking a bounce, good for six runs. If it hops and still
leaves the boundary, it is four.
"It's almost like a home run derby," Ismail
Thankfully, there are smart people, such as doctors, lawyers
and engineers, playing cricket who keep track of the
But cricket tends to appeal to all ages and backgrounds,
Ilahi said. And with the game reaching West Michigan, it is
likely interest in it here will grow.
"Sports is always a way to get people to come close to
each other," Ilahi said.
[For more information on sponsoring the club, contact Fahad Ilahi at
email@example.com or call 616-437-4623. Fans can also visit
www.grandrapidscricketclub.com for schedules and further information