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The Napa Valley Cricket Club put on a demonstration at Vichy Elementary School on Friday in hopes it will be the first of many Napa schools to adopt the sport.

In an assembly for Vichy’s third-, fourth- and fifth-grade students and teachers, Vichy Principal Chris Byrne spoke about the school’s health and wellness initiatives and the need to develop habits and sporting activities that children can carry into their teen years and beyond.

“Cricket is a sport, much like tennis and golf, that you can play well into adulthood,” Byrne said. “Like those sports, it’s also very international in nature and has the potential to broaden participants’ skills.”

Byrne said it was a sport that he had long heard stories about, but never seen live until he moved to the Napa Valley. When he first arrived at Vichy last year, he was particularly excited to learn that several of the students’ parents were members of the Napa Valley Cricket Club.

The club was represented at the assembly by three members who have children at Vichy, Phil Bourke, Bijoy Ojha and Dr. Abhijit Adhye, as well as two other members, Bernie Peacock and John Wainwright.

Bourke, the president of NVCC, spoke to the students about the history of cricket in the United States. He went on to describe how the sport has a tradition of character building.

“Etiquette, and good manners if you like, are fundamental to this history of cricket,” he said. “A batsman is expected to ‘walk,’ or give himself out when he knows he is out, or a fielder call a batsman back to the crease if she knows she didn’t take a clean catch.

“It also builds leadership skills. The key decision-maker in cricket is not a coach or manager, but the captain on the field who is not only responsible for tactical decisions but the behavior of her team.”

He went on to describe how cricket builds patience and strategy.

The assembly then included two videos. The first explained cricket, comparing it to baseball. The second had highlights from a match in the recent Cricket World Cup held in Australia and New Zealand.

Bourke then made a presentation to Vichy Elementary and Byrne of a cricket set donated by the United States Youth Cricket Association.

In providing the equipment to be donated, Mike Thomas – a director of both the USYCA and the American Cricket Federation, a recognized governing body for the sport, both of which Napa Valley Cricket Club is a member – enthusiastically supported this initiative.

“A primary goal of the ACF is to develop the game of cricket throughout the United States, with a view to creating strong local infrastructures that will ultimately result in competitive national teams on the international circuit, where after soccer it is ranked as the second-most played sport in the world,” Thomas said. “This is a long-term project, as it starts with introducing school children to the game.

“We are delighted the NVCC is joining the growing ranks of American clubs launching local school programs. We look forward to the next phase when regional and national competitions can expand for these younger age groups.”

The assembly then moved out onto Vichy’s playing fields, where the cricket members initially gave a brief demonstration of the equipment and skills to the students. The students, most of whom had never held a cricket ball or bat before, were then given bats and balls to try out and enthusiastically took up the challenge. Bourke noted that “while their skills have a way to go, several picked up the different techniques, and their enthusiasm to try something new was encouraging.”

Napa Valley Cricket Club members will return to Vichy Elementary each lunch time next week to set up the equipment and take interested students through drills and coaching, with a goal to setting up a small competition.

The assembly and demonstration finished with Byrne leading the students in thanking the club members for their time and efforts.

Bourke then invited the students to come along with their families to the Napa Valley Cricket Club World Series of Cricket, which will be held at the Napa County Fairgrounds in Calistoga next Saturday, April 18, from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

“The World Series is our season-opening event and also our major cricket match of the season. It’s an intra-club match pitting an American/Australian team against Rest of the World members,” Bourke explained. “It’s a great family day with supervised activities for kids, food and beverages for adults and a great opportunity to see a live game of cricket, played in a great atmosphere, and learn about the sport.”

After the assembly, Bourke described his goal of having school-based cricket in Napa.

“Our hope is that after a successful pilot program at Vichy that other schools and teachers, especially P.E. teachers, also give it a go,” he said. “We would love to have three or four schools learning the game and create a small inter-school competition.”

He said the club would be happy to train P.E. teachers and other teachers in the rules and techniques of the sport so that they can grow it in their schools. Any teachers, schools or parents who are interested in learning more about cricket, or in discussing running a similar program, should contact the club at napavalleycricket@gmail.com or visit www.napacricket.com.

More details on the game of cricket can be found at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cricket, icc-cricket.yahoo.net or www.espncricinfo.com. A video series, “How to Play Cricket,” is at www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL66F1E5A61B2F5A6B.

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