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It ain’t over till it’s overs: Cricket enthusiasts building T20 following

  • Vidhaan Jain, 11, of Hanover, practices batting against the fence at John Bryan Field in West Lebanon, N.H., between cricket innings Friday, July 23, 2021. Jain's dad, Virbahu Jain, is one of the game's organizers. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. James M. Patterson

  • Akshat Sharma, of Lebanon, second from right, prepares his team for a game of cricket as they warm up on John Bryan Field in Lebanon, N.H., Friday, July 23, 2021. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. James M. Patterson

  • Karthik Kumaresan hits a high ball into the field during a game of cricket in Civic Memorial Park in West Lebanon, N.H., on Friday, July 23, 2021. Members of the Upper Valley’s Indian community gathered for the game that stretched late into the evening. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News photographs — James M. Patterson

  • Ketan Rawal, left, and Anish Patel, front right, both of Lebanon, watch the cricket game on John Bryan Field at Civic Memorial Park in West Lebanon, Friday, July 23, 2021. The Upper Valley’s Indian community is using the game to bring them together re-engage with each other following a year of pandemic isolation. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Sujal Tipnis, of West Lebanon, dives to get inside the crease to score a run before the ball reaches the stumps during a game of cricket on John Bryan Field at Civic Memorial Park in West Lebanon, N.H, Friday, July 23, 2021. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News — James M. Patterson

  • Pavan Veluri, of Lebanon, stretches out before stepping up to bat during a game of cricket at Civic Memorial Park in West Lebanon, N.H., Friday, July 23, 2021. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 7/24/2021 9:47:11 PM
Modified: 7/24/2021 9:47:12 PM

WEST LEBANON — They were happy simply to be out on the field playing a game they love.

A group of 22 men from across the Upper Valley convened at Civic Memorial Field on Friday evening to play the first T20 cricket match in the Upper Valley. Some members of the group had been playing loosely for a few months, but this was the largest turnout and most organized game thus far.

The difficulties of the last year were present on some minds leading up to the match, but once play began, nothing else mattered. Not even a brief interlude of distant thunder and lightning dampened the mood. The participants wore smiles on their faces throughout the evening, constantly laughing and joking around with each other.

“The goal when we came in was to have fun, enjoy the game, and have the happiness. I think we accomplished that,” said Virbahu Jain. “Nobody’s feeling like, ‘We won, wow.’ It’s like everybody won because I think this is a first of the series, and I think we are looking forward for more.”

Jain, who helped organize the game, joked beforehand about the weight some had gained during the pandemic. He said this game was a chance to get everyone moving around a bit, but also to just forget about the tough last year for a little while.

He said the group, housed on WhatsApp, has 55 members who enjoy playing cricket. Most of Friday’s players already knew each other, and some brought friends who wanted to join the fun.

Jain was pleased with the high turnout, both in players and in family members who came to watch. Around 25 to 30 family members showed up in the middle of the match.

“I think it’s a sense of accomplishment because we can see that all the people here, all the family members, and everybody’s happy,” Jain said. “I think it’s a sense of accomplishment from a community. It’s just happiness all around.

“We are going to reflect after this game and see how we can include more people and see if we can make it more inclusive of other communities in the area.”

Jain, who lives in Hanover, arrived in the Upper Valley in 2010. Cricket has been played before this in the region, but this was the first T20 match. T20 is a shorter version of cricket, where each team is limited to 20 overs, or a delivery of six pitches by a bowler.

Rajeev Mishra, another participant and Hanover resident, has lived in the region since 2001. He recalled cricket matches from the early to mid-2000s but said they didn’t play 20 overs and the matches just had a different feel. They were less strict about the rules than compared to Friday.

“The goal always has been to have fun and, at the same time, have competition,” Mishra said. “Initially, it was hard for us to get people to play. Sometimes, we used to play with four people, five people, depending on how many people come, just to feel that way. Now, we have a lot of people come in.”

Jain thought the higher attendance made a difference in the game’s quality. He said pickup games with fewer people are still fun but feel more like practice, whereas this felt more like an official match.

Going into Friday’s contest, Jain had hoped that the strong turnout would parlay into more matches in the future, even potentially setting up a league or a tournament. After Friday’s get-together, he felt good about those chances.

“The next goal is to get more people going,” Jain said. “Because I think we are working with Lebanon facilities to have a dedicated pitch for us. They’re going to groom the ground for us, they’re going to make a pitch for us, they’re going to keep it maintained. I don’t think we have ever had that in this Upper Valley region. So I think the goal is to have that.”

Seth Tow can be reached at stow@vnews.com.




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