Cricket may be more than a religion in India but in the USA, Baseball (a modified version of Cricket) has such a firm grip in terms of popularity and commercial roots that Cricket has remained hitherto unknown. However, as people of Indian diaspora are becoming more visible, Cricket naturally follows them.
In the upend area of West Loop of Chicago downtown, Cricket has registered its presence, thanks to some passionate Indian young men. Their efforts led to the formation of Chicago West Loop Cricket Association.
Twelve teams contested in the Super-8 Champions Trophy organized by the Chicago West Loop Cricket Association in the US on August 26 and 27. The participants in the Tournament included people from all walks of life- from students currently enrolled in graduate studies to physicians and people working in the corporate sector.
The organizing team of the Chicago West Loop Cricket Association (CWLCA) comprised of Shreenidhi Bharadwaj, Harsha Hegde, Vivek Sarkar, Hari Nikko. Shree Bharadwaj highlighted that the main objective of the tournament was to bring everybody together and promote the spirit of cricket.
Friendly, yet competitive matches were played between the twelve teams that had an average of over 9 players each. The competition, excitement for the game and the liveliness and spontaneous actions of the players and supporters alike were also noteworthy throughout the tournament.
Group A (Westloop Tigers, International Khiladis, Hyderabad Blues)
Group B (Smashers, Chennai Super Kings, Westloop Super Stars)
Group C (Chicago Lions, UIC, Vanquishers)
Group D (Hyderabad Nawab, Westloop Minno, Excallibur)
One team from each pool made it to the semi-finals.
After completing all the league matches, the final match was played between the Hyderabad Blues and the Hyderabad Nawabs. Cricket is a sport known for its uncertainty and the game became even more decisive as the game changed in every few seconds in the nail biting finale. The final few moments of the Tournament were breathless and extremely exciting as Pradeep Goud from Hyderabad Blues hit 4 sixes and 1 four in the first five balls of the last over to lead his team to victory. He was also declared the Man of the Match.
Notable recognition from the tournament,
Man of the Series, Best Batsman and the Best fielder – Nagabhushan Gargeshwari
Man of the Match (Final) – Janagam Pradeep Goud
Best Bowler of the series – Gopinathan
Man of the Season: Dharmender Prabhakar
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Cricket is more a religion, less a sport in India. People are obsessed with the sport and magnitude of love cannot be defined in words.
In the United States, Baseball, Basketball and Soccer are obviously more popular. However, Cricket has a strong presence due to the passion and love of Indians for the game. The Indian community in USA avidly plays and promotes cricket and, in the process comes closer to each other.
The passion for the game is unreal in USA too. Working men enjoy the sport in their free time. They even book grounds (baseball/soccer grounds) to practice and conduct tournament matches. The players are from all backgrounds – students, businessmen, lawyers, IT professionals to doctors. They all take out time out of their busy schedules and come together to rejoice the gentleman’s game in the windy city.
Tournaments in Chicago
As cricket has a strong presence in Chicago, many friendly yet competitive tournaments are conducted by cricket fanatics to keep the game alive.
Chicagotwenty20 is the oldest cricket tournament that was conducted in Chicago. It’s first season took place in 2009 and the tenth season was played in 2018. The league is played in 20 overs format. 56 teams participate from Chicago and are divided into groups 4 with 14 teams in each group. Each team has a squad of 16 players with 11 playing and rest 5 as extras. Each team has a home ground. 7 matches are played at home ground and the rest at the opponent’s ground. The top eight teams from each group are qualified for the quarter finals. The tournament is almost four months long. The best player of the winning team is awarded the man of the match in every match. Best Batsman, Best bowler, MVP ( most valuable player) awards are given at the end of the season.
The 2018 season was won by team Yorkers. The Best Batsman, Highest score and the MVP award was given to Mr Pavan Shetty of team Yorkers, who scored 418 runs. The best bowler award was given to Sivakumar for taking 27 wickets.
WLCA Super 8 tournament
WLCA (West Loop Cricket Association, Chicago) was formed by four IT professionals in 2016 with the sole objective of promoting the game of cricket in Chicago City area. Based out of vibrant and affluent Chicago West Loop, WLCA is an assemblage of 300+ cricket players. These cricket enthusiasts come from different walks of life being corporate professionals, UIC/IIT students and local businessmen. There are hundreds of followers across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
WLCA mainly involve in:
Organize annual cricket tournament
Coordinate weekly cricket games in different Chicago City park locations
Coordinating friendly games with other known Chicago Suburban teams
WLCA team represented Chicago City in other Chicagoland tournaments including Chicago T20 League and Soha Cup
Maintaining and making available Cricket Equipment Kit free of cost to playing group
The WLCA hosts Super 8 Cricket tournament which started in 2017 by the West Loop cricket association (WLCA). It is played under the format of 8 overs and 8 players in each team. This concept of tournament was the first to be launched by WLCA in Chicago. This is the shortest time-consuming format (2 days) and the played at the heart of Chicago Downtown. The first season was extremely successful (12 teams) and participating teams called out as the best organized cricket tournament amongst many happening in Chicago.
Season 2 played in 2018 organized by WLCA had 16 teams divided into four groups with four teams in each group. The semi-finals and final are played with 10 overs. There is a man of the match, best bowler, best fielder award for every match
Here is the fixture and schedule of Season 2:
There are 16 teams participating in this short format cricket tournament.
16 team is divided into 4 groups.
Winter Wolves (A1)
Chicago Wild Kittens(B1)
Dark Knights (A2)
Chicago Super Kings(D2)
River City (D3)
International Khiladies (A4)
Each team in the group will play only two matches with the other two teams.
From each group top two teams will be qualified for the quarterfinals, then semis and finals.
Chicago Centaurs were the Champions and Super 9s were the runners up.
The tournament has become a big deal in no time. It was sponsored by big names like USBank (thanks to Susan Brown), Lodha Group (this group was also the associated sponsor of Ind vs, Eng Test Series in 2018) and Metra Spice Mart (Only Indian Grocery Store in Chicago Downtown). The tournament has gained momentum in no time and is likely to do so in the years to come.
Keeping the game alive overseas
Cricket has become a huge deal in Chicago. Around 900 people play the game in the windy city. Tournaments like above help in maintaining healthy competition and something to be excited for.
People sacrifice other chores just to enjoy this beautiful game and to keep it alive in countries outside India where cricket is not a major sport.
“My favourite sport and always loved to watch and play the game anywhere in the world anytime. Always loved to organize these kinds of tournament from childhood so continuing the same thing outside the country”, Says Harshavardhna Hedge, Organizer, WLCA super 8 tournament.
“Well I love the sport and love my country. We get to relive our childhood and impart love for the game to the next generation. The community comes together and enjoy, and we also return to the society through charity”, Says Hari Mohan, Organizer, WLCA super 8 tournament.