By Peter Simunovich
Imagine the luxury of playing cricket in winter with the temperature in the mid to late 70s or low 80s. Well, that's where Rod Gohil plays with the Arizona Cricket Club in Phoenix, Arizona, and the reason they play in winter is because it is too hot to play in 115 degrees during summer.
For Gohil, 43, a project manager, the cricket season is a special time of the year and he is the go-to guy with the club he formed five years ago and is president, treasurer, captain, player and coach and works like a groundsman on the team's home field in Gilbert, a suburb of Phoenix. The team is part of a 20-team two division Arizona Cricket Association.
The Arizona Cricket Club home ground in Gilbert near Phoenix, AZ
The field is on about 20 acres and Gohil has an agreement with the Town of Gilbert so his team can use the field for 10-13 home matches a season.
It has a turf wicket area - 30yds by 40yds - that has two pitches, which were prepared by Gohil and Derreck Carter. Several years ago they covered the pitch area with sand and then placed top soil over it.
Three years ago Gohil heard that there was three tons of clay calcium bentonite left over after pitches had been placed at Woodley Field in Los Angeles, California. He quickly went to work, he hired a truck and with Ken Taylor they made the 14-hour round trip to shovel the clay onto the truck and returned to Phoenix and immediately laid the clay.
It was all done in a space of a weekend.
Gohil, an all-rounder who came to the United States 34 years ago with his family from Ahemdabad in India, works up to 10 hours on cricket business a week, including preparing the turf pitches for the next matches. The agreement with the local government allows him and others to cut the grass on the pitch and water the area.
The pitch at the Arizona Cricket Club home ground
Under the arrangement, the team hires the field at $15 an hour for matches and when Gohil wants to water the pitch area there is another fee of $15 to hire the area and the groundsmen turn on the water.
Gohil also rolls the pitch once a year at the start of each season. He would like to do it more times, but it costs $300 to rent a heavy roller. Instead, he uses a sod roller during the season. The money comes from season dues of $200 per player, which is high when compared with other leagues, but that is to cover expenses.
Unfortunately, the field is not exclusive for cricket and football and soccer are also played there leaving the pitch area sometimes chopped up.
But overall, says Gohil, the field, which is in a water basin and about 30ft below street level, is "picturesque. It is beautiful, just perfect scenery. We work hard to keep it prepared and it is a labor of love."
All that effort has not gone unrecognized. When DirecTV needed a cricket ground for a PR event featuring baseball pro Manny Ramirez and cricket pro Shaun Marsh for DirecTV Cricket Ticket, they looked far and wide until they zoomed in on Nichols Park - home ground of Gohil's Arizona Cricket Club.
Gohil added: "Cricket is a passion for me. I am passionate for the game and I want to do it right. Our team provides lunch for visiting teams. We cater food from local restaurants and we vary it, ranging from curry meals to sandwiches to pizza."
While the field may be easy on the eye, players do not have a pavilion to use and arrive dressed and ready to play while others may use the privacy of bushes to change. There are portable toilets at the field with a tent and chairs for players.
Gohil is working with local authorities to have a pavilion and restrooms built to complete his field. That's another project on Gohil's already very busy schedule. He sees 20/20 cricket has a bright future in the US. He said: "If it is televised it will catch on. It has a lot of potential."