PRAIRIE VIEW, Texas – With the swing of the bat and strike of the ball, on a breezy Sunday morning, a game of cricket gets underway in a vacant field in far southwest Houston.
Familiar sounds bring back fond memories to Pakastani-born-Houston businessman Tanweer Ahmed.
“When I was growing (up), the only sport that we knew was cricket, so the passion and the love was already there,” Ahmed said.
Just northwest of Houston, off Highway 290 in the town of Prairie View, another construction project is underway.
The grounds are set to be a world-class cricket complex, with at least 10 playing fields, an academy and a commercial space when it’s all done.
“It's about 86 acres total. The first phase is we're gonna open up four fields in September. We're just waiting for the grass to grown in,” Ahmed said.
Ahmed said the game of cricket is to him and his friends what baseball is to Americans.
He said the game is growing in popularity in Houston, but teams need more dedicated spaces to play.
“Up until last year, there were 28 registered teams in the Houston Cricket League. However, not having enough fields, (a) lot more teams couldn't register. This year, since we're opening up in September, they allowed an extra four teams,” he said.
And he believes that number will continue to grow.
Kuldeep “Casey” Patel has played cricket since he was 15, and also played for the United States National Team. He’s working with Ahmed on the new Prairie View Cricket Complex.
“It’s like field of dreams. (There is) nothing like this in United States. I’ve played in almost every corner of the country. To have 10 grounds in one area is amazing,” Patel said.
Besides providing a space for the current roster of teams, Ahmed also wants to share his love of cricket with Americans by teaching them the game.
“The plan is to build an academy here to have (a) couple of coaches just to make sure when the school kids come, we start coaching them,” Ahmed said. “We (will) start introducing, to the universities, to the school level and all the colleges around here.”
Locally, some younger players are already beginning to share the game with their friends.
“(My friend) came to my house and I was about to go to my practice and he’s, like, ‘What are you guys doing?’ And I’m (saying), like, 'Cricket.' And he’s, like, ‘Can you teach me?’ And I just taught him how to hit the ball and throw and stuff,” one young player said.
The line from the movie Field of Dreams appears to be coming true: "If you build it, they will come."
Ahmed said he’s already received interest from players as far away as Michigan and Philadelphia wanting to play at his new complex.
“We have already been approached by some doctors; they want to come here from different states. Houston is probably the only city where you can play it all year long,” he said.
The second phase of the Prairie View Cricket Complex is set to be complete by November, with the final phases rolling out in 2019.
To learn more about the facility and how you can help be a part of the building process, click here.