By REBECCA ISENHART
SCHENECTADY — When Onkar Singh moved to Schenectady to be near friends and family seven years ago, one of the first things he did was connect with the cricket scene.
Singh immigrated to the United States from Guyana 17 years ago, and since then, the sport has kept him connected to a part of the community that feels like home. He now leads the Schenectady Softball Cricket Association, a 12-team league that will soon make its mark in Niskayuna.
Limited space and a growing interest in Schenectady’s cricket scene sparked a search for more space that has gone on for several years.
That search led the players to Avon Crest. The town has agreed to let them play there provided they rent a portable toilet to avoid interrupting parties in the pavilion, and the team expects to make the move by the end of July.
Singh, who leads a 12-team league, is excited about the new space. “Guyanese people, they work all week,” he said. “Sunday morning is church, and Sunday afternoon is fun.”
To Singh, from May to September, “fun” means a game of cricket. Teams of men in brightly colored uniforms, some homemade and others more fancy, battle each other from 1 to 6 p.m. as spouses cheer and children chase each other in circles. Women are welcome to play, too, but the majority of players are male.
“This is tradition,” Singh said, reminiscing about his childhood in Guyana. “From the time you know yourself, you play cricket.”
Though the unfamiliar rules and tightly knit teams have the potential to intimidate outsiders, new cricket players are more than welcome. In fact, Singh works hard to help young people understand the sport, visiting summer camps in Schenectady and surrounding areas.
“Every year a few more kids will understand what cricket is all about,” he said hopefully.
But really, what is cricket all about? Newcomers would be forgiven for drawing parallels to baseball. The pacing of the two games is similar, and teams in both sports trade off between batting and fielding.
The most obvious differences between the games are in equipment and scoring practices. Cricket involves a larger and heavier ball than in baseball; a wide, flat bat; and little or no hand protection for fielders. It also involves hundreds of runs each game, whereas baseball’s runs stack up much more slowly.
But if you really want to know, just ask.
Vick Sankar has played cricket under Singh’s leadership for seven years, since the Schenectady league began. He hopes Avon Crest’s regulars will start as spectators and become players.
“Get a lawn chair; bring some barbecue,” Sankar said. “Once you start to learn the sport, you’re going to want to be here every Sunday.”
If you’re going to play, make sure you’re ready to give it your all. Schenectady’s cricket players agree that while there’s lots of socializing, there’s no doubt it’s a competitive sport.
Each new team, usually of 11 players, contributes a fee to the league that funds the bright uniforms and the trophies they compete for.
Despite the recreational nature of the league, each Sunday is part of a months-long tournament.
“Competition brings out the best in us,” Singh said