The Wide Woo of Sports: At Worcester park, cricket offers a slice of home for first-generation immigrants

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First-generation immigrants are one of the fastest-growing demographics in Massachusetts, with more than 15 percent of the Bay State population born abroad, according to the latest census data.

Worcester alone houses more than 40,000 foreign-born Americans, and Central Mass. as a region has seen a large uptick in immigration from South Asia, the Middle East and Africa. Each of these communities has found unique ways to retain their identities and remember their homeland.

For Central Massachusetts’ South Asian immigrant population, that method is cricket.

Sheraz Ali prepares to swing at cricket practice recently at Holmes Field.

Joe Parello / For Worcester Sun

Sheraz Ali prepares to swing at cricket practice recently at Holmes Field.

The Willow Geeks, who use Holmes Field on Plantation Street as their home grounds, are one of more than 20 local teams that compete in the New England Cricket Association (NECA) league and tournament every year. The entire team is composed of first-generation immigrants from South Asia, mostly India, and ranges in age from 20-something students to 40-something professionals.

The team practices three or four times a week and plays a match each weekend, making the Willow Geeks one of the more dedicated groups of weekend warriors in the region. It’s that commitment that drew Parasu Raman of Northborough to the Geeks, after previously playing for the Marlborough Cricket Club.

Parasu Raman and Govind Mudumbai measure the pitch to place wickets -- from second base to first on a traditional baseball field.

Joe Parello / For Worcester Sun

Parasu Raman, right, and Govind Mudumbai measure the pitch to place wickets — from third base to second on a traditional baseball field.

“I had to drop from my other team because we weren’t playing very well,” Raman said with a laugh. “These guys (the Willow Geeks) won a different tournament last year. This is a pretty good team. … Last year (in Marlborough) nobody really came out for the practices, they just sort of played for fun.”


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