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Cricket bowls over Loudoun’s sports fields

The Beamers and the Royal Challengers squared off July 16 in a Loudoun County Cricket League game at Bolen Park in Leesburg.—Times-Mirror/Buzz Covington
Team captain and Ashburn resident Tapan Gupta took a good whack at the hard tennis ball as it ricocheted crazily off the ground, sending it flying back where it came from. It eluded scrambling fielders long enough for Gupta to race up and down the pitch, scoring two runs and winning the league's Division I championship.

The fact that it was the Spartans' third straight Loudoun County Cricket League title didn't lessen the team's jubilant mood.

"It's always special to win a championship, especially here in Loudoun County where there are so many teams," Gupta said. "It's important how you step up in crucial games, and these players did that."

The Spartans lost only three wickets for 69 runs to "walk-off" the Phoenix CC, who had 68 on eight wickets. The Phoenix emerged from the league's seventh playoff seed, knocking off two higher-ranked clubs to make the final.

Nasir Adrali provided power for the Spartans, smashing three 6s. Ramesh Velusamy hit a pair of 4s for the Phoenix.

Afterward, both teams' players and their families shared laughs around golden trophies, posing for many photos.

Debuting by the county's Department of Parks & Recreation in 2011 with 10 teams, the Loudoun County Cricket League now numbers 1,200 men across 48 teams in two divisions. The waiting list for a roster spot approaches 200, according to Harsha Sarjapur, an LCCL committee member and six-year player.

"We are maxed out," he stated.

Full standings, real-time scores and statistics, both individual and team, are kept at http://www.Loudoun.cricket.

"We built this website over the past two years," said Sarjapur, pulling out his smartphone to demonstrate. "We also have more sponsors the last two seasons."

The Spartans' Sunil Patel, an Aldie resident, plays in three leagues simultaneously. He ranked Loudoun's competition behind only the Washington Metro Cricket League among DMV-area leagues.

Gupta noted that county-administered fields make for better grounds than those used in other areas. Herndon resident Nihar Sappala has experience in recreational leagues around Chicago and Atlanta.

"Those areas aren't as good as this area is for cricket," he said.

Here's the pitch

The speed limit is 15, driving carefully past the choked parking lots that surround the series of baseball and softball diamonds at Leesburg's Philip A. Bolen Memorial Park. Keep on going to Soccer Field No. 18 to find a smattering of cars gathered for another stick-and-ball game.

Concentric circles of men surround the center of the field, exchanging instructions and peering in at one man. He's armed with shin guards and a wide-faced bat, and he's eyeing another man sprinting towards him, gripping a ball.

The ball gets bowled overhand, fast and stiff-armed. The bat (usually) hits it, and then pretty much anything can happen. Balls caught in the air put the batsman out, but a well-placed hit can go for two or three runs - valuable when innings are limited to 120 bowls.

A ball clubbed with a particularly solid thud can go for four or even six runs automatically, depending on whether it reaches or flies over the 65-meter (213-foot) circular boundary.

It's a lot like baseball, and it's also a lot different. For many in Loudoun, it's a way to stay connected with their past, and connect with others in the present.

"It's the street game in our home country. It's like our baseball, basketball, soccer. It's a game everyone plays," said Patel, who works with many of his teammates and opponents.

"I enjoy the quality of the cricket," said Gupta, the Spartans' captain, when asked why he'll return for an eighth LCCL season, starting in August.

He added, "Plus the enthusiasm to win some more."

The Spartans won the Loudoun County Cricket League's Division I Spring championship July 16, the team's third consecutive league title.--Times-Mirror/Jason S. Rufner

The Beamers defeated the Royal Challengers July 16 to claim the Loudoun County Cricket League's Division 2 Spring championship.--Times-Mirror/Buzz Covington

-Additional photos by Buzz Covington

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