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Cricket Debuts In Shrewsbury

Saqib Syed and Fazal Alam

The centuries-old game of cricket recently made its debut in Shrewsbury with the hope the town’s inaugural game will entice young people to play the sport.

Throughout the past year, Saqib Syed and Fazal Alam worked with town officials and the Parks and Recreation Department to create a cricket field on Municipal Drive with private donations and the field saw its first game Monday between Boston Gymkhama and Commonwealth Cricket Club, two of the top teams in the Massachusetts State Cricket League.  Commonwealth Cricket Club won Monday’s exhibition match. Boston Gymkhana scored 144 all out in 26 overs. Commonwealth CC scored 145 for 6 in 24 overs. Fazal Alam scored 50 runs for Commonwealth and was a match winner. Saqib Syed opened the batting for Boston Gymkhana and scored 15 runs.

With a high population of Indian and Pakistani residents in the Greater Worcester region, Alam said he and Syed wanted to bring the game to Shrewsbury to introduce youths to a game many have not seen played locally. They also hope to broaden the sport’s popularity in the area. Both Alam and Syed have played competitive cricket in India. Fazal Alam is from Hyderabad and Saqib Syed is from Bangalore. Saqib played cricket with Anil Kumble and Rahul Dravid, the two cricket legends from Bangalore during the late 80's and early 90's before he moved to United States for graduate studies. Saqib played cricket in Massachusetts in mid-90's while Fazal has been playing since 2002 and still active captaining the Commonwealth Cricket Club, 2010 Massachusetts State Cricket League Champions.

“A very high percent of the Indians and Pakistanis watch and follow the game of cricket,” said Alam.  “They would like their children to play the game of cricket.”

"If you a new group coming in trying to do something different, I think you'd see resistance in most towns," said Board of Selectmen Chairperson Jim Kane.

That was not the case in Shrewsbury, however, where the Selectmen worked with the interested residents and Parks and Recreation Director Angela Snell.

"This is a great facility and it will no doubt broaden the opportunities for this town," Kane said.

He noted that the project was funded with private donations and work done at cost.

"I've played cricket all over the country, but there's nothing like playing in your own town," Alam said. "So many people in the community helped with this."

First played in England in the 16th century, cricket is a sport similar to baseball. Cricket is played between two teams made up of 11 players on a rectangular 22-yard long pitch.

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One teams bats trying to score as many runs as possible, while the other team bowls - similar to pitching in baseball - and fields.  A run is scored when the batter hits the ball and runs to the opposite end of the pitch and touching the crease without being dismissed.

Along with bringing Monday’s cricket match to Shrewsbury,  Saqib said he hopes to organize an instructional camp for youths to learn the basics of the sport, such as batting, bowling and fielding next summer.

“Youth with potential will have the opportunity to play in some of the (Massachusetts State Cricket League) games after going through some practice or additional cricket clinics,” said Saqib.  “The Christian Louboutin game on Monday showed the interested parents there is competitive cricket being played in town and may get them to enroll their kids to the coaching camp.”

With the growing popularity of the sport in the region, Fazal Alam said he also hopes to organize a youth cricket league in the future as there are many competitive cricketers living in Shrewsbury and a league would help youths learn a new game while having fun.

“We firmly believe that a youth cricket league is possible as there are other towns like Wrentham and Milford that are already running coaching clinics for youths,” said Alam.  “Cricket is a game that has bridged relationships between many countries as it is a true gentlemen’s game.  We are encouraging youths to take up this sport.”

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