By Claire Harlin
While cricket may be one of the most-watched sports internationally, highly regarded for the strategy it requires and values it instills, it’s little known to people in the United States. Therefore, it’s not easy to start a youth cricket program that requires adequate fields, funding and facilities.
That’s the challenge Rancho Santa Fe resident Gangaram Singh has been up against for the past five years, since the lifelong cricket player was asked by a local YMCA to start a team. He’s since moved the practice location twice and built a new batting cage, and he said vying for use of public fields is near-impossible when up against sports such as soccer and football.
But Singh, who is the associate dean for academic affairs at San Diego State University’s College of Business Administration, has still managed to train more than 100 kids through the program as it has evolved over the years. Now, many of the field challenges are gone as the Del Mar Polo Fields last month became the regular practice location for the team, which meets each Saturday from 9 to 11 a.m.
“It gives us a home,” said Singh, of the team, whose members range in age from 6 to 17, “and more flexibility in terms of adding more days, if we wish.”
While Singh has seen great response from kids in his program, he has been hesitant to further develop or expand it until now — and he thinks the team is poised to flourish. Not only does the team have the support of a handful of volunteer coaches, which were hard to find, but he said donors have increasingly stepped forward to support the education of the sport, and the partnership with the polo fields serves as “the anchor” that the team needed, he said. Not to mention, one of the team’s coaches, Rancho Santa Fe resident Raj Singh Ghai, is a former professional cricket player from India — “the Babe Ruth of Cricket,” said Singh.
Now that the team, which has usually consisted of no more than 10 players, is set for expansion, Singh hopes to add a more rigorous team for serious players, akin to “competitive” as opposed to “recreational” in the game of soccer.
Singh said he thinks that once kids — and especially parents — are exposed to the values that cricket instills in its players, the sport will have a chance of becoming more popular.
Having grown up in Guyana and played cricket his entire life like many kids in other countries do, Singh said he thanks cricket for much of the success he has experienced today, as it promotes respect, fairness and good sportsmanship, among other values.
“If somebody is cheating or doing something wrong, you will hear someone say, ‘That’s not cricket,’” Singh said. “The spirit of the game means you never cheat, you never disagree with the umpire, you respect your opposition and you respect your teammates. You are the ambassador of the game, and the game is bigger and more powerful than you. It’s unpredictable, just like life.”
For information about the team, contact Singh at email@example.com.