Watching cricket can be a head scratcher. • A shoulder-shrugging time. A scrunched-up face event. • Take in about a minute, go 'huh?!' and try to keep up. • "There is a lot more to the game than one realizes it," local cricket player Asif Chan, 24, said.
"It's a lot more involved, which you could learn gradually, but in terms of jumping into it and getting your feet wet — you just can't do that," he said. "It's really hard to fall into it.
"Cricket, it's kind of like, 'Well, what the hell are they doing?' That couldn't be more true."
Well, that's why there's the Wesley Chapel Cricket Club. A group of about 40 players that meets Sundays at the Wesley Chapel District Park on Boyette Road has been promoting the relatively unknown sport to Pasco County for about two years now.
WCCC won the Florida Westcoast Winter League in May and will start playing in the Central Florida Cricket Summer League in the third week of July. The CFCL is known as the premiere cricket league in Florida.
"Obviously we're new," Raymond Kahn, the secretary of the club, said.
"When we played our first game out here, there was no one. Now, just people in the local community have been like, 'Hey, I hear you have a club, let me come out and play, let me bring my kid out and watch.' And that's just been great from the community."
Dr. Aamer Nawaz, a 47-year-old Pakistan native who has been playing cricket since childhood, was looking to get a cricket club going in the Pasco area. That way he had something to play on the weekend. Through different contacts and acquaintances he knew who also played cricket, he formed WCCC.
Over the years as Wesley Chapel District Park was being planned and constructed, Nawaz made the pitch to Pasco County Park and Recreation to add a cricket field, which, in essence, wouldn't take much room. All he needed was a clay hitting area/base path to cover with a tarp and some fielding area.
"Six years ago when the county wanted a park," said Nawaz, who has been practicing internal medicine as well as living in Wesley Chapel for about seven years, "I asked if we could get a dedicated cricket field and as things went along, this became a very sought after park. … We got lucky to have this here."
Kahn, 29, who's originally from South America, came to the United States when he was 13 and started playing cricket in New York.
Since coming to Florida and as an avid follower of the game, Kahn realizes that cricket is more popular than people think.
"It's just if you know the right circle to run in," Kahn said. "You have to know where the game is being played, and (it's) being played as far south as Palm Bay and as far north as Ocala.
"Anywhere between those areas there are a lot of teams out there."
Nearly all the members of WCCC are foreign-born, with the exception of one American, and even then, he usually referees the matches. That, however, is not uncommon.
"Cricket — in Pakistan, India, South America — it's a way of life," Nawaz said. "People from Jamaica, too. Some of the people in these countries, when it comes to cricket, are born champions in the sport."
Chan, who came to the United States in 1998, realizes how confusing cricket can be to newcomers.
He tries to compare cricket to baseball, since there is similar terminology, such a fly outs and run outs on the base path.
"Cricket's definitely different," Chan said. "I try to get people on the mind set of baseball and then squeeze cricket in there. Usually that helps.
"We've had a lot of people from over at the soccer (fields at the park) come over and watch us, (but) we realize we're new and the word has to carry."
Community Sports Editor Mike Camunas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 544-9480.