The unlikely return of the Saint John Cricket Club
Cricket has a 162-year history in Saint John, and the Saint John Cricket Club is bringing it back
Two years ago, cricket was so underplayed in Saint John that the Saint John Cricket Club had no field where they could practice.
"Last year we were practising in a parking lot," said Vishal Vincent, vice-president of the Saint John Cricket Club.
Since then, cricket in Saint John has been on an upswing.
The team got permission to play on a disused field in Exhibition Park, "practised really hard" — and managed to get good enough to qualify for the provincial cricket finals this weekend in Fredericton, said Vincent.
In one year, the club has boosted the membership to 25 members from 17.
"If we keep on increasing like we did this year, we might have two teams in Saint John," said Vincent.
There are 11 players on a cricket side.
There are currently four cricket teams in New Brunswick.
162-year history in Saint John
Cricket — while wildly popular in India, Pakistan, England and Australia — has fallen out of favour in New Brunswick.
But back in the 1800s, English regiments garrisoned in Saint John were massive fans of the sport, converging for massive tournaments on the Barrack Green in the city's south end, which drew hundreds of spectators.
But the Saint John Cricket Club first formed in 1855 gradually faded away with the decline of colonial influence — until the present-day incarnation of the team brought it back two years ago. The club has built up the roster by distributing fliers, recruiting new members on social media and doing outreach to kids at local middle schools.
Despite its reputation for notoriously complicated rules and matches that can last for days, the basic aim of the sport is pretty simple: score more than the opposing team.
Two teams take turns batting and bowling: the batting team attempts to score as many runs as possible by hitting the ball around an oval field, while the other other team tries to get them out by bowling the ball overarm at the stumps, or posts, located at either end of the 20.12-metre area known as a wicket.
Like baseball, cricket is played in innings — usually one or two, depending on how long there is to play.
Those familiar with baseball, Vincent said, may have an easier time picking up cricket.
The Saint John Cricket Club practises at Exhibition Park every Wednesday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Everyone is welcome — even people who "don't even know what a cricket bat looks like," Vincent said.
"We are happy to show them how to play and share that excitement."
Finals this weekend
The T20, or shorter form, cricket provincials take place on Saturday at Lincoln Field in Fredericton. The Saint John Cricket Club will play the Loyalist Cricket Club.
The team will give it their best shot.
"We're playing with teams that have been playing for 10 years, and we're a two-year-old club," Vincent said.
"But we have a really good bunch of players this year."
For the players, many of whom are from India and other countries, with a few native New Brunswickers sprinkled in the mix, the camaraderie off the field is just as important.
"We're good buddies and we have cricket parties," Vincent said.
"We have nice community building up here."
With files from Information Morning Saint John