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CCA News

High-tech manager leads an effort to build a pitch

By Lisa Fernandez Mercury News
Mar 03, 2008

Hemant Buch dreams of inviting guests from his native India or Australia or the West Indies to compete in the wildly popular game of his youth.But hosting such a cricket match today in Silicon Valley would make him a global laughingstock, the Cupertino resident laments. While local cricket enthusiasts play on a dozen fields in the Bay Area, none has the space or the features to meet international standards. It would be like holding an Olympic swimming match where the athletes had to swim in a wading pool.So Buch has approached San Jose, Santa Clara and Cupertino about creating Northern California first regulation-size cricket field, complete with extra-fine grass and special clay that needed to create a premier turf. It would be the first of its kind in Northern California, and among a handful of others in the country.He crossing his fingers that one of the cities will say yes to a game that is unfamiliar to most Americans, though it was the precursor to baseball.

But Buch knows luck won"t be enough. To better his odds, Buch, a senior quality manager at Logitech in Fremont, has pledged $20,000 in private money for a five-acre oval-shaped field. He is also paying a politically connected consultant and rubbing elbows with high-powered community leaders."I don"t really go to the India Community Center; I hardly go to the Hindu temple," Buch said. "But I guess I connect with my community through cricket, bringing a bit of the homeland here."Buch faces stiff challenges. How can a community afford a dedicated cricket pitch used by a relative few, when players of more popular sports, such as soccer and baseball, already struggle to find enough playing fields?."I empathize with their field issues," said Mike Fujimoto of San Jose, president of Cupertino"s De Anza Youth Soccer League. "But we barely have enough fields for soccer and Little League. We all compete for park space."

While cricket is growing in popularity in the United States, its numbers - and therefore clout - pale in comparison to mainstream American activities. In Alameda and Santa Clara counties, there are about 110,000 immigrants from India and Pakistan, where cricket is one of the national sports.But there are only about 750 adult and youth cricket players signed up in cricket leagues in Northern California. Compare that to the De Anza Youth Soccer League, which has about 1,000 players - and that"s not to mention all of the other youth leagues, or the tens of thousands of adults who play on soccer and baseball teams.Still, nothing seems to deter Buch. He"s persistent, even relentless, about being a "squeaky wheel" to promote anything that has to do with cricket.He hired Greg Sellers - a consultant, Morgan Hill city councilman and Valley Transportation Authority board member - to help him figure out which city may have usable land to rent. And he"s developed allies including G.M. Harding, a San Jose parks and recreation board member, Cupertino Mayor Dolly Sandoval and Santa Clara Councilman Dominic Caserta to champion his cause. At a chamber of commerce event, he networked with Juli Anne Callis, an executive at KeyPoint Credit Union, whose organization donated trophies and iPods to his all-youth California Cricket Academy.So far, none of the three cities are anywhere close to approving a cricket pitch.But San Jose may offer the most realistic opportunity for a true cricket field in a soon-to-be developed area at North First Street and Vista Montana. In a best-case scenario, a field, with the right grass and turf, could be ready in three years.

"We are very aware of the need for cricket; they have been very vocal," said Cynthia Bojorquez, deputy director of San Jose"s Parks, Recreation and Neighborhood Services, who acknowledged she had to look up "cricket" on the Internet to brush up on the game. "And with our change in demographics, there"s a real desire for it. We want to serve our diverse community". This month, the Cupertino City Council will discuss whether to upgrade a field behind the library to make it more suitable for cricket.Nationally, there are a handful of cricket fields that meet international standards, such as Woodley Park"s cricket fields in Van Nuys and Central Broward Regional Park"s fields in Lauderhill, Fla.

Buch concedes he wasn"t all that great of a cricket player growing up in Ahmedabad. But at least in India, he said, every cricket player got to play on serious turf."You look at baseball or basketball here, and kids are playing in conditions that are like, "Wow," " Buch said. "But when we have to play on concrete or five-inch-tall grass, it"s like, "Sheesh." It"s about time that people here start recognizing this is a real sport."

Contact Lisa Fernandez at or (408) 920-5002.

Updated 06/06/2012 06:23:41