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Cricket coming home to Bellevue | Community sports feature
For Muhammed Memon, a cricket match is much more than just runs and outs.
A native of India, where the sport is a national past time and universally treasured, Memon came to Bellevue in 2011 and immediately sought out others who shared his passion for the game.
While there were several teams in the area, it was a loosely confederated bunch without a strong infrastructure and even more troubling, no home field.
"Everybody was playing in different groups," he said. "Last year we decided to come together and form a new club. But the tough part was the lack of a field."
When the season begins again in a few months, thanks to a partnership with the city of Bellevue, that will all change.
The North Robinswood Playfields adjacent to Big Picture School now include a cricket pitch, little more than an unspectacular parcel of field turf in the center of the larger baseball and soccer fields for the uninitiated. But within that small strip, Memon and dozens of others will be finally be able to transport the sport of their former homes in India to Bellevue.
"It takes me back to my childhood, my school, college, everything," Memon said of cricket. "I have a lot of love for this game."
Memon and other members of a local time composed of Eastside players used a field in Shoreline for a home field last year, but will have a much more familiar locale in Robinswood, where some 60 percent live within walking distance.
Glen Kost, planning and development manager for the city of Bellevue, said Memon was the one to open the dialogue on bringing a cricket pitch to the city, no surprise since Memon works for the city of Seattle and has experience in project planning.
"There are a lot more people playing, and it is good we can help facilitate that," Kost said. "It's very exciting."
As scores of immigrants from India have relocated to the Eastside to staff positions at Microsoft, T-Mobile and other tech industry corporations, they have brought various elements of culture along. Perhaps the most important of all is the baseball-like game that brings curious gatherings during matches but until recently, had no home on the Eastside.
"In India and Pakistan, everyone knows about the importance of cricket," Memon said.
Games on the national and international level are akin to the Super Bowl in terms of fan support in the country. On the local level, weekend games provide an opportunity for families to come together and share in the camaraderie.
Memon said he hopes by providing a full-time home for the sport in Bellevue, cricket can become even more integrated into the fabric of the community, even among those unfamiliar with it.
"Whenever we have a game, people are always stopping and watching and asking questions," he said.
Along with organizing around their new home at Robinswood, Memon and other members of the club worked with Lake Hills Elementary to donate a cricket set as part of a class project about English culture and hope to get kids even more interested in taking the pitch.
They also have plans to start offering a summer camp through the city of Bellevue's youth programming, teaching kids the basics of the sport and bringing them together through competition and camaraderie.
"There is so much diversity," Memon said of the population on the Eastside. "With sports, we can help people understand culture."