SALISBURY — To find the nearest cricket match when he lived in Michigan, Jaypal Kalagiri had to get up at six on the weekend and drive for two or three hours.
The sport he loved since childhood was always worth the commute.
Cricket is an outdoor bat-and-ball game similar to baseball. It is most popular in India, Australia and the United Kingdom, where it was invented, but not yet as widespread in America.
Kalagiri picked up the sport growing up in southern India. He brought his passion for the game with him when he moved to the United States in 2002 and settled in a small town near Lake Michigan. With no field nearby, Kalagiri had to travel to Detroit or Chicago to play. The cricket season was also shortened to just a few months a year due to the cold weather.
A longer season of play was one of the benefits of moving to North Carolina, which Kalagiri did in 2014.
Now that he lives in Concord, Kalagiri will soon not have to drive far to practice his favorite sport.
After receiving zoning approval from the Rowan County Board of Commissioners last week, Kalagiri is moving forward with plans to build its own cricket ground on a 35.5-acre site on Glover Road, just west of Faith. The plans for the field were first approved by the Planning Bureau.
Kalagiri, who works in information technology, sees the site becoming a place where thousands of cricketers in the Charlotte area meet to compete.
“This will be very beneficial for everyone,” Kalagiri said.
Cricket is played by two teams of 11 on an oval field with a rectangular field in the middle. A field team member tosses a ball toward a wooden wicket. A batting team player tries to hit the ball before it hits the wicket, usually with the aim of hitting the ball past the boundary to score points. There are multiple ways cricket can be played, with some games lasting seven or eight hours and others just three. In one format, matches are played over the course of five days.
Kalagiri said matches on his pitch are usually played on weekends between members of various local cricket organizations, such as the Carolina Cricket League. The playing surface itself will be approximately four hectares. There will be no lights on the field. So the game ends when the sun goes down. There will be 48 parking spaces and a few grandstands where family and friends can watch the action.
While most North Carolinas know a lot about football, basketball, or baseball, few know about the game of cricket. Still, Kalagiri said there is a substantial cricketing community in the Charlotte area. He connected with the community as soon as he moved to Concord.
“Cricket is a good way to make friends,” Kalagiri said.
He estimates that more than 1,000 cricketers will benefit from his new pitch.
The Kalagiri cricket ground may be the first in Rowan County history, but it won’t be the only one in the Charlotte area. Local cricket leagues host matches in Charlotte’s Reedy Creek, Kilborne and Robert Smith Parks. Kalagiri has also traveled to a field in York, South Carolina. Not all pitches are large enough or suitable for players to use the traditional leather cricket ball, which is heavier and participants must wear protective clothing. Often players have to use a heavy tennis ball instead. Kalagiri said his new Rowan County pitch will be big enough for both forms of play.
Kalagiri started about three or four years ago with the idea of creating his own field with the aim of giving cricketers an easier place to play. The site he chose in Rowan County is well positioned between Charlotte and the Greensboro area with easy freeway access. It also has a nice piece of cleared land, perfect for a standing area.
Kalagiri estimates that it will take two or three months for the cricket ground to be ready to host games and tournaments.
Kalagiri doesn’t want the pitch to focus only on established cricketers. He hopes it will help introduce the game to new fans and competitors.
“We welcome everyone to come and see the game,” Kalagiri said.