South Bay cricket festival hopes to be precursor for international tournament

Looking from a distance at Santa Clara's Luther Field, player movements and swings evoke a sense of baseball. However, it's not. The players are part of the 17th annual California Cricket Academy Festival.

The four-day event is happening at nine sites across the South Bay.

"Two of my sons both were interested. So we decided to have a professional coaching for them," said Hemant Buch, founder of the academy.

Arsh Bush has been swinging a cricket bat since the age pf seven. Then he would hit googlies, but now, despite limited practice time, he’s mastered going deep.

"I love competing. I love competing and a love a team sport," he said.

In the game of cricket, an invention of the United Kingdom, a batter wears pads and defends a stump. Then a bowler, equivalent to a baseball pitcher, throws at the stumps on a bounce.

SEE ALSO: $50M cricket stadium proposed in San Jose

Each team gets one out, before letting the other team bat. Scores can run into the hundreds of points, and games can last six hours or more.

This sport is popular in other parts of the world, but here, members of the Northern California Cricket Association said it’s a struggle to find a place for a pitch.

"In the entire Bay Area, we have only about less than a dozen grounds. Where the demand is for about maybe 40 grounds. Maybe 50. So it’s extremely difficult. We feel very lucky if we get a ground to play," said Paven Vedere, a member of the Indus Cricket Club.

Land is a valuable commodity in the Bay Area. And what’s available is already used – from camping to cookouts, soccer to baseball and lacrosse. So, the CCA is hoping to convince a South Bay city to invest in a world-class cricket pitch.

"The proper one would probably cost around a few million dollars. Because the grounds and everything around needs a lot more precision," said Buch.

That’s significantly more than the $300,000 the CCA pays to lease Luther Field from the Cupertino Unified School District.

"It takes a while, because it’s a cultural shift. Cricket has not been a domestic sport. It does not have a pipeline. Kids are not playing cricket in the streets across America," said Dr. Shaun Fletcher, a professor of psychology and sport communication at the San Jose State Univ.

Still, Buch said he is seeing the beginnings of a shift..

"I think the knowledge of the game is definitely growing. Even in everyday speak. So there’s a path forward for sure," he said.

On Luther Field, the CCA hoped that their pitch will lead to a hit for the game of cricket, on the national and international stage.

Jesse Gary is a reporter based in the station's South Bay bureau. Follow him on Twitter, @JesseKTVU and on Instagram, @jessegontv