There’s a distinct bat crunch and lots of cheering on Saturday and Sunday afternoons at Tippecanoe Park. However, the roar does not come from the softball field, but rather from the strip of artificial turf in the middle of the grass field. The Milwaukee Panthers Cricket Club hosts a cricket match and also develops the game in southeastern Wisconsin.
Founded in 2009, the club was one of the few teams that made up the Milwaukee Regal T20 Cricket League, which operates out of Lindsay Park on the city’s North Side, as well as Lincoln Park on West Villard Ave. The Panthers, who are the defending Regal League champions, are also members of the Midwest Cricket Conference and play their home games at Tippecanoe Park. They are the only Wisconsin team in the league, which largely plays in the Chicagoland area. Captain Rizwan Arshad recalls the game’s humble beginnings in Milwaukee, which has a major international following but has yet to really catch on in the United States.
“When I started playing in the mid-90s, there was only one team in Milwaukee,” Arshad recalled. “It started with guys from the West Indies, Jamaica and Guyana, who formed it as early as the 70s. Before, we had to play in Chicago, because there were no other teams here.
A growing sport
Locally, cricket’s growth is seen in the number of grounds and clubs that are popping up in Milwaukee County. The Regal League began its 2022 season in April, with 11 participating teams. The league will have multiple games each weekend at its two grounds through July, before the playoffs begin in August. For the Midwest Cricket Conference circuit, the Milwaukee Panthers have two more home games, July 24 and August 21 at 10 a.m., but the team will travel to play games against the other 15 league members until the end of August, with this beginning of the post-season. in September.
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If you have never looked, the rules of cricket are not very complex compared to traditional baseball. The objective for the batter is to score runs by hitting the ball over the boundary, with four runs for overshooting on the ground or six (called a maximum) if overshooting in the air. Batters also score runs by going back and forth between wooden stakes (called wickets) before the ball is returned by defenders. Rather than three out in baseball, an inning ends when all 10 batters are out, either by a caught ball or when a fielder breaks the wicket before a batter reaches the strike zone safely.
Each bowler (similar to a pitcher) throws only six balls consecutively, which is called an over. The Panthers play T20 cricket in the Regal League and T30 in the Midwest Cricket Conference, meaning play is limited to 20 and 30 overs per side. Unlike some forms of gambling, a typical T20 or T30 match can be completed in a matter of hours. It also makes it a more manageable watch for those who are curious about getting into a game.
For those looking to learn how to play the game, Arshad and the Panthers are very welcoming to new players. He leads coaching sessions for beginners and lists his contact details on the club’s Facebook page. “We always welcome the neighborhood and people who are interested in cricket,” Arshad said. “Everyone is welcome to watch the game and have lunch with us.”
For more information on the Milwaukee Panthers Cricket Club, be sure to visit their Facebook page or the Regal T20 League page on CricClubs.com.