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Cricket has roots in Hawaii

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  • JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARADVERTISER.COM
    Batter Vishan Dookhu awaits a pitch from bowler Kazar Joseph during a Honolulu Cricket Club match.
  • JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARADVERTISER.COM

Rooted in the days of the monarchy, sown with the seeds of tradition and watered with the acceptance of different cultures.

That is cricket in Hawaii.

As surprised as folks are when coming upon a Sunday match in Kapiolani Park, the bigger surprise is the diversity of the Honolulu Cricket Club’s membership.

Many are from countries where cricket is one of the national sports: India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Australia, New Zealand. Others, such as Hawaii-born-and-raised Mark Berwick, are "Yanks" who fell in love with the game.

"We’re quite the international mix," Berwick, the HCC president, said. "Part of it, I think, has to do with Hawaii’s isolation and part of it ties in with Hawaii being a melting pot.

"I like what our club has become. Unlike other clubs, where players primarily arrive, play and leave, our group has regular barbecues outside the games. We’re as much a social club as we are a cricket club. It’s special for a number of factors."

And that includes being recognized as the oldest sporting club in the Pacific. The Honolulu Cricket Club was officially established in 1893, but competitions were being held in the 1840s, gaining the favor of Kamehameha IV (Alexander Liholiho).

WHERE TO START

» Honolulu Cricket Club (www.honolulucricketclub.org), Kapiolani Park most Sundays, 10:30 a.m.

» Maui Cricket Club (www.mauicricketclub.org), Baldwin Beach, Paia, most Saturday afternoons

The first cricket pitch in Honolulu is near where Makiki District Park is located and was known as the Makiki cricket grounds. In honor of Kamehameha IV’s support, the Honolulu and Maui cricket clubs compete for the Alexander Liholiho "Ipu Pilialoha O Hawaii" (Hawaiian Friendship Cup).

Bishnu "Ram" Ramsarran is the senior member of HCC, playing since 1979.

"I was surprised to find it here," said Ramsarran, originally from Guyana, a former British colony in the West Indies. "What is nice is this is one place where we put our biases away. Regardless of what country you’re from, your ethnic background, we come together to enjoy the sport. Yes, it is like the Olympics.

"If we don’t have a visiting team, we’ll divide up with two captains who try to balance out the sides. You’re looking for fairness. In the end, it doesn’t matter who wins because the guys you’re playing with today might be the guys you’re playing against next week."

There are various forms of cricket played around the world. This is test cricket, which is played over five days usually between international teams, and social cricket, played for one day.

HCC’s social cricket and its Hawaii Premier League matches last about 5 hours. While players do wear traditional white shirts and slacks, there is no hot tea served between innings.

"Too hot for tea in Hawaii," Berwick said. "But I’ve played where we’ve had mid-morning tea and mid-afternoon tea."

HCC has hosted various foreign sides and has been hosted by many teams whose club shields are displayed in the HCC’s virtual clubhouse online. Honolulu toured New Zealand earlier this year and will travel to India next year.

Sachin Shah isn’t sure he’ll make the trip to his home country but has been happy to maintain a connection to his native India through cricket.

"I lived in Chicago and Detroit, where there were many Indians and cricket was common," Shah said. "When I came here (in 2001), there aren’t many Indians, so I was really surprised to see it played.

"Never in my life I’d thought Hawaii would have proper cricket, with the whites and the hard ball. In Chicago we didn’t play with the hard ball; we used tennis balls. When I tell my friends back on the mainland that I’m playing proper cricket, they say, ‘Really?’ "

HCC welcomes the interested and curious, those who don’t know the difference between a carry and a cherry or a doosra and a donkey drop.

Dues are $80 for the year and the club has bats and helmets for use.

"Initially, you don’t have to buy anything," Ramsarran said. "It’s pretty cheap for the year, compared to the mainland, where dues are $500 and you can only play four to five months."

The sport is complex and confusing to the casual observer. But it can become addictive.

Berwick moved to Australia because of cricket and now works for the Australian Consulate in Honolulu.

"There are similarities to baseball," said Berwick, who played for Punahou. "But if you have to make a comparison, I’d say that baseball is to checkers what cricket is to chess. There is a level of complexity to cricket that you don’t get in any other sport."

 

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