That's Cricket; Group Introduces Sport to School Kids

By Hunn, Chris | New Haven Register (New Haven, CT), June 14, 2012 | Go to article overview

That's Cricket; Group Introduces Sport to School Kids


Hunn, Chris, New Haven Register (New Haven, CT)


Growing up in Hyderabad, a large city in the southern part of India, Rakesh Kallem remembers skipping school to go play pick-up games of cricket.

"Once in a while we'd get caught," he says with a smile. "It's something I'll never forget."

And when he and his friends needed new equipment, they would pull together all of their pocket change so they could afford it. Kallem was introduced to the sport as a toddler. Whether it was a game in the street or at the collegiate level, cricket has always been a part of his life.

Now Kallem is giving back to the game that gave him so many fond memories.

After meeting via Facebook, Kallem, Jamie Harrison and Ed Fox created the United States Youth Cricket Association a little over two years ago. It's a non-profit organization geared to promote cricket across the nation at the grassroots level.

"I want to see kids playing cricket in the streets when they get home from school," Kallem said. "I want to see kids play cricket just like soccer."

Kallem, 32, has lived in the United States for 12 years now. He resides in Rocky Hill, works at Dassault Systemes Enovia Corporation in Milford and still plays for, and serves as president of, the West Haven Cricket Club. The club won a state title last year.

But the real story is Kallem's devotion to developing the game in this country and the growing organization he helped start.

The USYCA's strategy is to target schools. It offers free equipment and training for schools to incorporate the sport into their physical education curriculum and make it available to children during recess. Some schools have made it an after-school club. It's also worth noting, the International Cricket Council honored the organization with its ICC Development Programme Award in 2010 for best junior participation initiative.

Right now there are over 800 member schools of the USYCA and Boston public schools are the most recent to join. That number continues to grow and Kallem expects it to reach 1,000 by next year.

On the state level, there are schools from seven different districts (Berlin, Groton, Bridgeport, Greenwich, Fairfield, Hamden and West Haven) signed up with USYCA that will be playing cricket this fall.

"You try to teach the kids all different sports," said Joe Morrell, a physical education teacher in West Haven. "The opportunity came across the table and we figured we'd give it a shot. …

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