Not everyone in Lehigh Acres know how popular the game of cricket is, but Mohamed Yasin, a well-known community leader, says there are lots of people here who enjoy cricket and lots of people who play cricket.
On Saturday, March 29, Yasin says there will be a big game between Lehigh and New York and everyone is invited to come and enjoy the game, but bring your lawn chairs and umbrellas if you want to protect yourself from the sun.
The game will be held from 12:30 to 5:30 p.m. at Veterans Park (Athletic Field), at 55 Homestead Rd.
It'll be a great fun day, Yasin says and he reminds everyone who comes to also bring their barbecue meats with charcoal and there will be some free food.
Yasin said while the game will be played on the athletic field, Lee County still needs to designate a field/sign dedicated to cricket.
Cricket is an old game going way back with the first international cricket game played between the U.S. and Canada in 1844 and before that, Yasin said even President George Washington played cricket.
It was first played in the south of England in the 16th century and by the end of the 18th century, it had developed to be the national sport of England, he said.
"Lee County has a large population of cricket loving people and together with others and with the cooperation of the Lee County commissioners and the Parks & Recreation Department, we have made several 'strives' in providing an avenue for us to play this popular sport of cricket.
"There are two types of cricket played in Lehigh, one with a softball and the other with a hardball and cricket has been played in Lehigh prior to 2003 by early residents from the West Indies. After 2003, a few of the players such as I and others advocated 'organized/ team cricket' which resulted in competitive teams (18-21 teams) games in Florida. Veterans Park in Lehigh Acres has been a primary venue for the residents of Lee County," Yasin said.
He said he had approached the county park and rec division and the county commissioners asking them to have dedicated fields in 2005. Meetings were set up with various parks and rec directors and voiced at the county commissioners meetings and at the Lehigh Acres Community Council.
"In the Lehigh community, the sport was and is becoming popular for thousands of residents in both Lehigh and Lee County. Numerous residents come out at the now Veterans Community Park with their lawn chairs and picnic baskets to watch the game primarily on Sundays and some Saturdays," he said.
"Over the years, we have had teams come on an annual basis from Connecticut, New York, etc., to play one or two-day matches. We play year-round in league games competing with teams throughout Florida" Yasin said.
Currently Lehigh has three active teams. They include the Lehigh International CC, the Lehigh Indians and Lehigh CC, comprising of more than 70 active players playing in league games from Lehigh. There are more than 150 other cricketers in Lee County and countless cricket fans.
Yasin, who is a retired from the military, and an educator in Lee County Schools, said cricket is a widely played and loved sport in the West Indies and Guyana and a great past-time for him. In fact, it is the second most popular sport in the world soccer being the most popular. All you have to do is google cricket and you can watch live games streaming on the Internet almost daily," he said.
"It is nice to know that fields and specific areas have been dedicated solely for baseball, soccer, football, tennis, Athletic/Paws (dog walking park).
"But none has so far listed a 'Cricket Field' and it would be great to have such a sign dedicated just to cricket," Yasin said.
He is also a member of the Community Council of Lehigh Acres, an advocate with the Voice for the People in Lehigh.
"I love this game as a child growing up and will continue to play as long as I am physically able. I have assisted in promoting the sport to anyone who wants to learn to play. This is a team sport which has rules and is played with disciple," Yasin said.
Without a large explanation of how to play cricket, it is a bat-and-ball game played between two teams of 11 players each on a field at the center of which is a rectangular 22-yard long pitch. Each team takes its turn to bat, attempting to score runs, while the other team fields. Each turn is known as an inning.
Yasin said the "bowler" delivers the ball to the batsman who attempts to hit the ball with his bat away from the fielders so he can run to the end of the pitch (which is counted as one run) without getting run out (the event in which the fielder throws the ball directly onto "wickets" or to a player who is near to wickets so he can dislodge them from the ground before the batsman or the nonstriker has reached the crease.
If some of this description is new to you, Yasin hopes you will come out to the game on Saturday. It is free, but like he said before, bring your picnic chairs and barbecue meat with charcoal. For more information on cricket or the game, call Yasin at 239-292-8208. He enjoys telling everyone all about the game of cricket.
Better yet, just come to the game and watch the fun, Yasin said.