Louisville will always be known as a basketball town, but that hasn’t stopped cricket players and aficionados from making their mark. The Louisville Cricket Club, part of the 42-team MidWest Cricket Tournament, teamed up with Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer’s office to create a new playing facility at Hays Kennedy Park, located off Bass Road near Prospect.
The facility is being named for Sunil M. Gavaskar, a legend in the sport who is known as “the Muhammad Ali of world cricket.” Gavaskar came to Louisville for the fields’ grand opening on October 15.
The Hays Kennedy facility is the first outside India to be named after an Indian player. In an interview with the Times of India before his visit to Louisville, Gavaskar, who represented India in international matches for more than 16 years before retiring in 1987, said: “It’s a wonderful honor to have a ground named after you, especially in a country where cricket is not the premier sport.”
Mayor Fischer expects the city’s $150,000 investment in the fields will reap great rewards. “We are an increasingly global community, and cricket is already part of our city’s sporting landscape,” he says. “We hope the investment at Hays Kennedy Park will open the sport to more local participation, and the city to even more global opportunities.”
Ten percent of the funding to create the new fields was raised by Louisville Cricket Club’s 50 active playing members. Louisville Cricket Club has been in partnership with Louisville Metro and has participated in various voluntary activities dating back to the club’s inception in 2013.
Jai Bokey, president of the Louisville Cricket Club, was grateful to Mayor and Louisville Parks and Recreation Director Seve Ghose for his support. “This is about much more than just creating a purpose-built space for Louisville Cricket Club to play,” says Bokey. “Cricket is an important part of culture and community life in places like England, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, and throughout the West Indies. Having such a superb facility will help to bring people and business to Louisville from all over the cricket-playing world.”
Ghose shares the same goal, adding that the long-term goal is for Louisville to become a destination for national and even international cricket competitions, with plans to eventually build a pavilion and practice facilities.
For some local cricket players, the field is long overdue. According to Dr. Uday Bahunutula, Vice President of the Louisville Cricket Club, cricket has been popular in Louisville since the early nineties.
Cricket season starts in April and winds down in October. The Louisville Cricket Club practices every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Plus, they have games every weekend on a home and away basis. The club also volunteers their time and effort to support local charities or community projects.
The biggest misconception about cricket, says Srikanth Srineni, Louisville Cricket Club, Joint Secretary, is that it is not a very popular sport when it is actually the third most popular sport in the world behind basketball and soccer. According to www.totalsportek.com/most-popular-sports/ cricket is regularly watched by more than 2 billion people, with the Indian Premier League being the world’s richest and most-watched competition.
While Kishore Maranganti, Louisville Cricket Club Treasurer, attributes cricket’s popularity to its ease and kid-friendly appeal. “It attracts school kids as it is easy to pick up and needs minimal equipment to play,” he says. “Essentially a bat and a ball are all you need for recreational play. Any age group can indulge in the game.”
Now anyone in the Louisville Metro area can see cricket and play it for themselves. The new field not only promises to enhance Louisville’s recreation offerings but also international appeal.
“It will help in attracting and recruiting foreign talent to Louisville,” says Bahunutula. “It is especially going to be a big draw in recruiting young professionals to Louisville from the international community.”
Curious About Cricket?
The Louisville Cricket Club produced an online guide to the sport for beginners, which can be found here.