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Palo Alto students test their skills at cricket

School district adds sport to its curriculum

Sam Stoltenberg, gently taps his bat at the crease to earn run points during a game of cricket taught by Ken Denton at Walter Hays Elementary School. Photo by Veronica Weber.

On a recent Thursday morning, fifth-graders at Walter Hays Elementary School flocked to the sports field to try their hand at cricket. For many, this was the first time they had played the English bat-and-ball game that spread to India and has gained popularity around the world in recent years.

The game is both familiar and foreign enough to be engaging. Some students commented that cricket was "like baseball" in one way or another.

"I don't really play sports, but I like that (in cricket) everyone gets to do everything," said Catherine Funtu, a student in Jennifer Ford's fifth-grade class.

Catherine and her classmates are among the first students in the Palo Alto Unified School District who have been given the opportunity to try the game during P.E. class after the district officially adopted a cricket program at its elementary schools at the start of this school year.

Ken Bunton, a P.E teacher at Walter Hays Elementary School, said the program has translated surprisingly well to his fifth-grade students. Everything about the curriculum and equipment is designed for younger learners. The equipment is specifically designed for children with regard to size and safety. The bats are smaller and made out of plastic, not wood, and the balls are softer.

"Overall this curriculum has been amazing," Bunton said. "It's really included (all of) them."

Bunton said many of his students of East Indian heritage feel "so validated" and excited to demonstrate their cricket skills to their classmates. Students of all backgrounds and skill levels already have expressed love for the sport, he added.

The push to introduce cricket to Palo Alto schools came from parent Vineet Kataria, whose 10th-grade son at Palo Alto High School plays cricket through the Bay Area Cricket Alliance, where he has become a nationally ranked player. Kataria said his son has been playing for eight years even though the sport never made it into his high school curriculum. He wanted his daughter, Aavriti, who is a fifth-grader in the district, to benefit from a school program.

Kataria teamed up with Suraj Viswanathan, president of the Bay Area Cricket Alliance, to bring the sport to Palo Alto after hearing about the group's efforts to introduce cricket to other school districts.

On Aug. 10, using curriculum provided by the International Cricket Council, Viswanathan trained district gym teachers and community members on how to introduce their elementary students to cricket, a sport similar to American baseball.

The district program, though still in its teetering first steps, has been met with excitement.

"Since we teach such a diversified student population, it is nice to also offer culturally diverse activities to our curriculum," said Liz Pounders, a team leader of elementary physical education for the district who has worked at Fairmeadow Elementary for the past six years.

Pounders explained that this curriculum is particularly exciting because of the way it is broken down by fundamental skills appropriate for each grade bracket. She said the fundamentals — bowling, throwing, catching and fielding a ball — allows it to build upon itself.

The Cricket Alliance donated basic equipment to the district, which was then divided among the schools to run drills.

With nine basic sets, Bunton explained, he has enough equipment to break his students up into small groups to increase their practice and play time.

Pounders said she hopes that by the time her students have learned enough of the fundamentals to play a full game, each school will have its own set of equipment. Until then, they'll practice the stepping stones of skills and drills.


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3 people like this
Posted by Howzat
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 10, 2017 at 7:51 am

You have two sides, one out in the field and one in. Each man that's in the side that's in goes out, and when he's out he comes in and the next man goes in until he's out. When they are all out, the side that's out comes in and the side that's been in goes out and tries to get those coming in, out. Sometimes you get men still in and not out.
When a man goes out to go in, the men who are out try to get him out, and when he is out he goes in and the next man in goes out and goes in. There are two men called umpires who stay out all the time and they decide when the men who are in are out. When both sides have been in and all the men have been out, and both sides have been out twice after all the men have been in, including those who are not out, that is the end of the game

Oh, and everything stops for tea.


Like this comment
Posted by Chip
a resident of Professorville
on Nov 10, 2017 at 12:41 pm

Yawn. As a spectator, cricket is the most boring game I've ever had to watch - like watching paint dry. Only thing worth going for is tea at the interval. Go late, leave early.

5 people like this
Posted by Venkat
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Nov 10, 2017 at 1:07 pm

Watching cricket is interesting, way more than baseball. Especially T20 format, something is happening all the time. It offers 3 formats for varying interests of spectator.
T20 - game finishes in 3 hours (format most suitable for USA)
ODI - game finishes in 7 hours
Test - game finishes in 5 days

5 people like this
Posted by oh well
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 10, 2017 at 1:17 pm

Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet. What will we lose next?

2 people like this
Posted by Howzat
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 10, 2017 at 10:23 pm

@ Oh Well


2 people like this
Posted by Cricket fan
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 11, 2017 at 4:50 am

Boring? Have you ever tried to make a beer snake? A crowd favorite at the cricket; stack the empty beer cups together, turn them sideways and see if you can work together to make a loop around the field. Not enough cups??.... drink more beer!

2 people like this
Posted by Cricket is prohibited on the Jordan field
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 12, 2017 at 3:10 pm

Cricket is prohibited on the Jordan field is a registered user.

In a bit of irony, the "Prohibited Activities" sign at Jordan Middle School field says Cricket is prohibited.

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