Summerville sticks with new cricket field

The bails fly off the wicket to dismiss Mumbai Indians cricketer Sachin Tendulkar, center, during the Indian Premier League cricket match against Delhi Daredevils in East London, South Africa, Friday, May 8, 2009. AP file photo

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Cricket is a pitch Summerville just couldn’t seem to resist.

Town Council has approved spending up to $15,000 to equip a back field at the Gahagan Park sports complex, wickets and all, at the request of a native Briton with a business on Dorchester Road. The full council finance committee approved the expenditure at its meeting last week.

OK, sure, things get a little batty at times around Summerville. But wickets? Cricket? Well, the mayor has fallen right into the swing of it.

“Joe Riley has his Riverdogs (baseball team). Keith Summey has his Stingrays (ice hockey),” Mayor Bill Collins said with a smile. “We’ll have the Palmetto Sandlappers. I think it’s going to take off like anything.”

Collins’ eye, as usual, is on potential recreation and tourism revenue. Cricket might sound outlandish, but if you had told him in the 1970s that youth soccer teams would boom in popularity in the region, he wouldn’t have believed it, he said.

Geoff Hawes has made him a believer. Hawes, the business owner, is a lifelong cricketer who has been playing with his two sons in his back garden since he moved here. He’s found 40 other people so far in the same wicket, many of them from other countries where the game carries the same devotion as baseball does in the United States.

Hawes plans to form at least a few 11-player teams. The idea is that those veteran players will bring in more and coach them on the game. He wants to challenge the US Tigers, a downtown Charleston team, as well as others in the region, maybe even the nation or England.

Hawes thinks the time has come, with more people arriving here from overseas. He thinks cricket will be infectious.

“There’s a lot more action to it than a softball or baseball game,” he said. “It’s controlled by the bat.”

Not everyone is bowled over yet.

“I’m not opposed to cricket,” Councilman Bill McIntosh protested after his lone vote against the expense. He just thinks the town can provide the field for cricket, but the players should provide their own equipment, as other sports leagues do.

Hawes said it’s not like other sports, where things like bases, goals or nets already are in place. Rolling out a wicket isn’t cheap, and wickets have to be ordered from England. Once they are in place, the game can start and sponsors be recruited, he said.

The other proposal for the Gahagan back field, Collins pointed out, was to build another football field — at a cost of several hundred thousand dollars.

Should cricket get stumped, the town can simply sell the equipment, Collins said.

“And that,” he added with the smile, “will be a sticky wicket.”

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