SPRING HILL — Cricket is coming to Hernando County, and enthusiasts can thank a 16-year-old Spring Hill teen for leading the way.
Hernando County Parks Supervisor Roy Link said the county will dedicate one of the soccer fields at Delta Woods Park to be used as a cricket field, complete with pitch and bleachers.
Link said it is up to Shamir Qureshi, 17, and his fellow cricket enthusiasts to carry the ball forward and find a vendor to bring in the clay to be used for the pitch and groom and maintain the field.
Link said the county will work with the vendor and volunteers but will not spend taxpayer money in creating the field.
This way, the county will find out just how much interest there is for such an endeavor, he said. If the volunteers cannot make it a going concern, the field will be converted back to a soccer field.
For months, Shamir Qureshi and his mom, Alia, have been talking with county officials about establishing a field in one of the local parks with the goal of establishing a Hernando County Cricket League.
Now that a field is available, Shamir Qureshi is working with contractors to determine the least expensive way to build the pitch. A pitch is the center strip on a cricket field — typically about 22 by 10 yards — and covers the distance from the bowler to the batsman.
When school begins this month, Alia Qureshi said, her son will have plenty of volunteers to work on the project and raise money.
Shamir Qureshi said he is talking with contractors in Orlando and Sarasota, the only two places he knows of that carry the kind of clay needed for a cricket field. Clay is an oft-used alternative to grass for cricket pitches in places with hot climates.
Shamir hopes to get a vendor to donate the clay in exchange for having its company logo on a sign at the park.
Qureshi and his parents also have hired a local landscaping firm to groom and maintain the field. So far they’ve kept costs to about $200 for lawn care and other supplies needed for the cricket field.
Qureshi, who will be a senior at Springstead High School this year, used to be big into baseball and would play it with his friends whenever he got the chance. During one of his frequent visits to Pakistan, where his mom was born, Qureshi got the cricket bug.
In places like Pakistan, India, Australia, South Africa and the West Indies cricket is a highly popular leftover from their time as part of the British Empire.
“Cricket has been around since the early 1900s but hasn’t really exploded like baseball because it hasn’t been introduced properly,” he said, referring to the game’s history in this country. “We want this to be authentic.”
Qureshi wants this to be a “true community-driven project” so cricket will be introduced into the area the right way and everyone will have ownership in the initiative.
Barring setbacks, he hopes to have the first cricket match played at Delta Woods Park by December.
Cricket is not the only thing on Qureshi’s mind these days. This summer he visited villages in remote areas of Pakistan where poverty, hunger and lack of medical care are prime worries.
Alia Qureshi said she and her husband, Rizwan, are proud of their son, who is planning to be a neurologist, and will support him in his mission to establish cricket in Hernando County. She said she watches cricket games but doesn’t play. Once games begin at Delta Woods Park she will attend, she said, adding only time will tell if the game catches on.
“This is something new,” she said. “It might not work, but at least let’s give it a shot.”
Shamir Qureshi was born in New York City. His mother is from Karachi, Pakistan; and Rizwan Qureshi is from Birmingham, England.
Link said he applauds Shamir for his vigor in promoting the sport and wishes him and his friends success because he would like to see an alternative sport in Hernando.
“It’s what we’re all about here in parks and recreation,” Links said. “Keep the kids busy; keep them of the street and give them more recreational opportunities.”