For many who play it, the sport is ingrained in their culture — so much so that even in a country where the sport is virtually unknown, they find the time and the space to enjoy it.

"I love cricket," Ellicott City resident Arun Bangalor said. "It's in my blood."

Bangalor is one of 288 people participating in Howard County Recreation and Park's new adult cricket league.

Cricket, a sport similar to baseball, originated in England and is now the second most popular sport in the world, according to, behind only soccer.

Sign up to receive our free daily email newsletter: Columbia Today

Like baseball, it involves batting and fielding. But in cricket, pitching is called bowling and instead of four bases there are two wickets, spread 22 yards apart on the pitch, the central strip of the field.

The batsman, as he is called in cricket, can score by hitting the ball and running to the opposite wicket. However, there are other ways to score and other rules that differentiate the sport from baseball.

The Howard County cricket league was formed this past spring after recreation and park officials realized a significant number of people were using the baseball fields at Meadowbrook Park in Ellicott City and other unoccupied fields to play the sport.

"Anywhere that we can find an open spot, we would go and play," said Ellicott City resident Murali Padamanaban, who worked with Howard County recreation supervisor Derek Ludlow to help form the official league.

Venky Natarajan, another of the league's founders, said he and some other players have been holding cricket games in Howard County for seven years. Since they started, he said, the number of players has grown, simply from word of mouth.

"Fun meets passion," is how Natarajan describes the game. But he admits competitiveness is playing more of role as the league grows, especially now that it's official.

"The competition is growing year by year," Natarajan said, and so, too, is the talent level, he added.

The first season of the league, held this past spring, had 18 teams. Ludlow said the waiting list included at least 12 teams worth of people — each team has a roster of 24 people.

Though the interest didn't dwindle for the fall season, which will wrap up at the end of this month, Ludlow did not have as much field space so he could only authorize 12 teams to play in the league.

"I could probably pull in the area 35, 40 teams," Ludlow said.

Regulation-size field

To help with the space issue, the county is modifying two multi-purpose fields at Schooley Mill Park, in Highland, to accommodate a regulation-size cricket field.

The baseball fields where the league currently plays are about half a regulation-size field, Padamanaban said, so they had to modify the game to work with the space.

He said the players are looking forward to the having a cricket field at Schooley Mill.

"It's a privilege to have a ground in a country where this is not an official sport," he said.

Renovations, which involve re-grading the existing fields to a single level, will begin this month and are expected to be completed by the end of the year.