Ten teams from as far away as Australia and South Africa will compete Thanksgiving weekend in the Sarasota International Cricket Club’s (SICC) 25th annual Six-A-Side Festival. Unlike traditional cricket teams of 11 players, Six-A-Side teams have six—hence the name—and each game is far shorter; over in an hour or less, explains team captain Chris Thakoorpersad. The public can watch for free; Thakoorpersad recommends the Sunday playoffs, when a British car club displays vintage autos and cricket demos engage the kids.
Cricket originated in England in the 1500s and spread across the globe with the British Empire. Ex-pats founded the Sarasota club in the 1980s. Over the decades, amateur players from 46 nationalities have participated. Since the mid-2000s the club’s 250-some members have played on its own five-acre field off
How It’s Played
According to cricket-rules.com, cricket is played with a bat and ball on a large field, known as a ground or pitch, between two teams of 11 players each. The object is to score runs when at bat and to put out, or dismiss, the opposing batsmen when in the field.
There are six or seven cricket leagues that average 20 teams each in Florida from Jacksonville to Miami, many of which play different versions of the sport. The Sarasota club isn’t part of a league. It plays traditional leather ball cricket, similar to a baseball but heavier.
Competing in the Six-A-Side will be Guyanese cricket superstar Shivnarine Chanderpaul, one of the world’s greatest-ever cricketers (“what Barry Bonds is to baseball,” says Thakoorpersad). An Orlando resident and SICC member since 2005, he started the Chanderpaul Cricket Academy at the Sarasota club to train the next generation of cricketers. Google him on Youtube to see videos of his prowess.
An additional two-and-a-half acres acquired by the cricket club now host rough-and-tumble rugby games. SICC members from South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and England tend to play both cricket and rugby, Thakoorpersad explains.
Cricket games used to take as long as six days, but the introduction of variations like the 20-over game (an over is the pitching of six balls, so the 20-over is six pitches done 20 times) has reduced some games to the length of an American baseball game.
Cricket teaches discipline and respect for others. “It’s a sport where you learn a lot of lessons in life,” says Thakoorpersad. “You don’t fight, you don’t argue. You play to win, but at the end of the day when it’s over, all the players hug each other and break bread together.”