Thursday, October 5News That Matters

Fixing a pitch: San Ramon gets a hand with cricket fields

SAN RAMON — Considerable exactitude goes into making a good cricket pitch, but a lot of it is just the way the ball bounces. Literally.

Members of the San Ramon Cricket Association have been “intimately” involved with the planning of a major cricket field renovation at Windemere Ranch Middle School, and the liveliness of the balls on the pitch was one of many factors considered.

“They were literally bouncing the ball on various surfaces we were looking at for the new pitch” at Windemere Ranch, said Kathi Heimann, a city Parks and Community services manager. The balls are about baseball-size, just as hard, slightly heavier.

That’s typical of the guidance the city received from cricket association leaders as the $130,000 project has progressed. This renovation, along with efforts to find a location to replace the existing, sorely undersized Monarch Park cricket field a little over a mile to the north, is designed to accommodate a burgeoning sport in the Tri-Valley.

“It’s all driven by a changing demographic in the community, and our city’s trying to be responsive,” said Eric Figueroa, San Ramon’s assistant city manager. That effort also includes events like the Indian-specific Diwali Cultural Fest 2017 on Oct. 21, and the multicultural Culture in the Community event Oct. 15.

A cricket ball is photographed on a sample of turf that will be used on a new cricket pitch at Windemere Ranch Middle School on Monday, Oct. 2, 2017, in San Ramon, Calif. (Aric Crabb/Bay Area News Group)
A cricket ball is photographed on a sample of turf that will be used on a new cricket pitch at Windemere Ranch Middle School on Monday, Oct. 2, 2017, in San Ramon, Calif. (Aric Crabb/Bay Area News Group) 

San Ramon’s Indian demographic is trending upward. The city’s estimated July 1, 2016 population was about 75,600; of that, approximately 31,600 are of Asian descent, primarily Indian and Chinese. Many of these newest San Ramon residents live in the newest eastern reaches of San Ramon, which include Windemere Ranch and the tidy subdivisions that surround Monarch Park.

Cricket, which originated in 1500s England, is the most popular sport in India, with a history there dating from the 1600s, through England’s East India Company, which evolved from a trading company into a pseudo-governmental entity.

And as San Ramon’s (and the Tri-Valley’s) South Indian population grows, so does the popularity of cricket.

“Demand here for cricket, and use of the fields, has increased like crazy,” said Satyen Lokanandi, president of the cricket association, which formed in 2008. “We’ve got 30 teams of 15 to 20 players in our adult league, and 200 kids in our youth program. The number of kids knocking at our door is growing day by day.”

The Windemere Ranch field is big enough to be “official” size, an oval or circle at least 330 feet in diameter, if big chunks of the fields surrounding it — a baseball field and a softball field — are used. This isn’t the case at Monarch Park, where the whole park is smaller than a regulation cricket field.

Heimann said the update now being assembled of the city’s Parks and Community Services master plan will include potential new cricket-field sites.

As for Windemere Ranch, the field was torn up and leveled starting in July. Drainage was improved, because heavy rains have sometimes flooded the pitch and field, said Scott Rennicks, a city public services analyst. Sod is being laid starting this week, and should be ready for play by the end of the year.

Windemere’s pitch, by rule about 66 feet long and 10 feet wide, had been flat concrete topped with all-weather carpet. The transformed pitch will feature a porous concrete with a sub-base that aids in drainage. And instead of all-weather carpeting on top, a short artificial grass often used for field hockey surfacing will be employed.

The Windemere Ranch field will also be used by cricket clubs active at several local schools, Figeuroa said.

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