Mark Buckley

 Mark Buckley of the Napa Valley Cricket Club delivers a pitch at a recent practice. Vince D’Adamo photo

Forming the Napa Valley Cricket Club created a lot of initial excitement, and the luster has yet to diminish.

Beginning on May 20, Calistoga became home to Napa Valley’s only organized cricket team. The team practices at the Napa County Fairgrounds in Calistoga and Silverado Middle School in Napa.

The idea started two years ago with a couple of Australian employees of Treasury Wine Estates in Napa, who were nostalgic for their favorite sport and decided to take part in an informal game with the club in Davis.

By last summer, they had rounded up 17 interested Napa Valley residents, including two Americans, enough to field a complete team and then some.

With little fanfare, they played five games in Marin and Davis just to see if they could sustain enough momentum to organize a formal team.

“It really brought back memories of living in England 20 years ago,” Matt Wood said. “It’s been great finding a group of guys to play with so you can relive your childhood. It’s a pretty good standard of cricket. You find out that there are all kinds of people from all over the Bay Area. It brings a little bit of home back to the United States.”

According to Wikipedia, cricket is a bat-and-ball game played between two teams of 11 players on a field, at the center of which is a rectangular 22 yard-long pitch. One team bats, trying to score as many runs as possible while the other team bowls and fields, trying to dismiss the batsmen and thus limit the runs scored by the batting team. A run is scored by the striking batsman hitting the ball with his bat, running to the opposite end of the pitch and touching the crease there without being dismissed. The teams switch between batting and fielding at the end of an inning.

“If people are baseball fans, there is a big strategy aspect,” Jared Thatcher said. “That’s the case even more so in cricket. Batting is much more complex in cricket than it is in baseball. Our matches only last slightly longer than a baseball game. There’s a lot of action. We’re very social. We really stress having a good time.”

In professional cricket the length of a game ranges from 20 overs of six bowling deliveries per side to Test cricket played over five days. The Laws of Cricket are maintained by the International Cricket Council (ICC) and the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) with additional Standard Playing Conditions for Test matches and One Day Internationals.

Cricket was first played in southern England in the 16th century. By the end of the 18th century, it had developed into the national sport of England. The expansion of the British Empire led to cricket being played overseas and by the mid-19th century the first international matches were being held. The ICC, the game’s governing body, has 10 full members. The game is played particularly in Australasia, the Indian subcontinent, the West Indies, Southern Africa and England.

“I played a little bit of cricket in England when I was fairly young,” Mark Buckley said. “I always enjoyed the game. I used to watch it on TV. My dad was a semi-pro bowler back in the day. I enjoy it. It’s actually more social at our level.”

Wood added that at the highest level, cricket can take a long time, but when the Napa Valley Cricket Club plays its Sunday matches, there is a time limit involved.

“It really is not as boring as people think it is because they don’t understand it,” Wood said. “It’s like any game, once you get an understanding of what’s going on you start to enjoy it. Baseball can appear to be slow but once you know what’s going on it’s enjoyable.”

Thatcher added that he eagerly looks forward to Wednesday practices and Sunday matches.

“When I found out they were playing here, I was excited,” Thatcher said. “I got into playing cricket with some college roommates. Now that we are officially organized and have a good club, it’s a lot of fun.”

Buckley said that there are various things that make cricket unique.

“Calistoga is great but it is a trek,” Buckley said. “They have been the most hospitable. It’s the kind of sport that goes with high end wine-tasting. Wimbledon has its tea and strawberries, but with cricket, wine is a good accompaniment. I enjoy it; I haven’t hurt myself too badly. I’m hoping to get better.”

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