Resident helps keep cricket on the map in Johns Creek

President of the Johns Creek Cricket Association Shafiq Jadvji talks with people on the sidelines before the start of the match between Lambert High School and Northview High School at Shakerag Park in Johns Creek Sunday, November 6, 2020.   STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION
President of the Johns Creek Cricket Association Shafiq Jadvji talks with people on the sidelines before the start of the match between Lambert High School and Northview High School at Shakerag Park in Johns Creek Sunday, November 6, 2020. STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Cricket is on the rise in Johns Creek. Watchful eyes have seen players using baseball fields for matches or taking practice swings in cricket batting cages at Shakerag Park.

Shafiq Jadavji is another telling factor. An ardent advocate of the sport that isn’t always familiar to Americans, Jadavji hopes to start a recreational program in Johns Creek, open to all ages.

“My goal is not to just develop awareness of cricket in Johns Creek but to create healthy lifestyle and community engagement through the sport,” Jadavji said.

Cricket is more commonly played outside the U.S., including South Asia, the Carribean, England and Australia. Canada defeated the U.S. in the first international cricket match held in 1844 in New York City.

The sport is similar to baseball in that each team has batters and wants to score more runs than the other. In cricket, each team has 11 players. Two batting teammates stand opposite each other in the central space of play – a rectangular space called a pitch.

Each batter is in place to swing and defend three-stick stumps called a wicket. A bowler on the opposing team sends the ball to the far end of the pitch space to try to knock down the wicket. If the bowler succeeds the batter is out for the game. If the batsman hits the ball successfully and scores, the batting players switch places.

Northview High Scool cricket team player Viraj Vaghela (R) cheers on his teammates during their game with Lambert High School at Shakerag Park in Johns Creek Sunday, November 6, 2020.  STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION
Northview High Scool cricket team player Viraj Vaghela (R) cheers on his teammates during their game with Lambert High School at Shakerag Park in Johns Creek Sunday, November 6, 2020. STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Jadavji (pronounced JaadavGEE) is president of the nonprofit Johns Creek Cricket Association and wants more infrastructure for the sport in Johns Creek. He also hopes to get city officials’ support for his organization to run a recreational cricket program.

Last spring, Johns Creek Cricket was turned down for lack of experience when it answered the city’s request for proposals for a recreational cricket program. The nonprofit will be two years old in January.

A handful of cricket terms

Batsman: The batter

Wicket: Three wooden stakes in the ground connected by a horizontal bar at the top.

Wicket keeper: The catcher and the only fielder that wears gloves. All the other fielders catch the ball with bare hands.

Bowler: The field player who propels the ball towards the wicket of the opposing team.

Pitch: The central space of play where the bowler hurls the ball and the batter attempts to hit the ball.

Hat trick: when a bowler gets three batsman out in three consecutive balls.

Four runs: When the batter hits a groundball that crosses the boundary, it’s an automatic four runs scored.

Six runs: When the batter hits a fly ball that crosses the boundary, its an automatic six runs scored.

Jadavji told City Council members Dec. 7, “I think in the last six months we have shown that with the passion and knowledge and the execution that we have, we can very quickly create the necessary experience and create the impact. That is our goal for 2021.”

Jadavji gives frequent updates on cricket activities during public comment at City Council meetings. He appeared at the speaker’s podium earlier this month to share that the organization hosted its first high school cricket tournament and to push for adult play fields at the soon-to-be-constructed Cauley Creek Park. The nearly 200-acres of park space connects the property of the former Cauley Creek Reclamation Plant and Quail Hollow Park.

“It’s taken a good five years to help people understand what the sport is and how is it played and why is it important,” Jadavji told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “At this point we have good support from the city (officials) and community.”

Cricket batting cages, said to be a first in the southeastern U.S., are available for play at Shakerag Park in Johns Creek. CITY OF JOHNS CREEK
Cricket batting cages, said to be a first in the southeastern U.S., are available for play at Shakerag Park in Johns Creek. CITY OF JOHNS CREEK

Johns Creek Cricket Association is partnered with Atlanta Cricket Academy for a youth program and separately has hosted a tournament of five high school cricket clubs. Wheeler, Walton, Lambert Northview and South Forsyth high schools competed in a three-week tournament of 10 matches that concluded in December.

In Johns Creek, matches are held at Shakerag Park, which has three cricket batting cages and a pitch. Recently, the current Leadership Johns Creek class donated a electronic scoreboard for cricket at the park after raising $25,000.

Shakerag’s cricket popularity led the city to start charging fees for use of the cricket cages (up to $45 an hour) and pitch (up to $67.50 for two hours). The city plans to open three new batting cages and another cricket pitch at the park by January, Johns Creek Recreation Manager Kirk Franz said.

Shafiq Jadavji, center, a native of Africa, said he learned the sport of cricket as a youth while living in Asia and Pakistan. The financial advisor is captain of the Atlanta cricket club, Southeast Xpress. The team won the YogiFi Leatherball T-20 Championship in November. Jadavji is pictured with Vinod Ajjarapu, left, co-founder of YogiFi and teammate Parvez Dawoodani. Courtesy Shafiq Jadavji
Shafiq Jadavji, center, a native of Africa, said he learned the sport of cricket as a youth while living in Asia and Pakistan. The financial advisor is captain of the Atlanta cricket club, Southeast Xpress. The team won the YogiFi Leatherball T-20 Championship in November. Jadavji is pictured with Vinod Ajjarapu, left, co-founder of YogiFi and teammate Parvez Dawoodani. Courtesy Shafiq Jadavji

Although high school teams play adult-style matches on the Shakerag cricket field, its size is too small for adult games, Jadavji said. He asked City Council to build an adult-size field at Cauley Creek Park.

Mayor Mike Bodker said the city is working with the the nonprofit informally as the city plans for space for adult cricket play at Cauley Creek Park. Current plans are to build fields that can be used for cricket, lacrosse, soccer or football. The interchangeable fields would be completed in 2022 and ultimately the mayor hopes to build a dedicated cricket field there.

Most of Cauley Creek’s $20 million cost will be funded by a parks bond approved by voters in 2016.

Many in Johns Creek’s nearly 30 percent Asian population grew up playing or watching the cricket in their home country. Bodker says that makes for a perfect storm for cricket.

“We pride ourselves on that,” he said.

Jadavji, a native of Africa, said he learned the sport of cricket as a youth while living in Asia and Pakistan. Before moving to Johns Creek, in 2011, Jadavji joined cricket clubs in New York and across the U.S., he said.

A financial advisor by profession, Jadavji is captain of the Atlanta cricket club, Southeast Xpress. The team won the YogiFi Leatherball T-20 Championship in November.

Viraj Vaghela a junior and a batsman on the Northview winning tournament team, said he is one of many second-generation cricket players in Johns Creek. Vaghela said his father played in India before his parents immigrated to the U.S.

“I think we will start to see in the next few years a lot happening with cricket and more first generation players,” Vaghela said.

Jadavji has near- and long-term goals for the sport in Johns Creek. In 2021, Johns Creek Cricket Association plans to start a women’s cricket program. And in the coming years Jadavji wants cricket to move from high school clubs to an approved sport sanctioned by the Georgia High School Cricket Association.

“And I think we can do it over the next four years with all the things we have planned for,” he said.

A handful of cricket terminology

Batsman: The batter

Wicket: Three wooden stakes in the ground connected by a horizontal bar at the top.

Wicket keeper: The catcher and the only fielder that wears gloves. All the other fielders catch the ball with bare hands.

Bowler: The field player who propels the ball towards the wicket of the opposing team.

Pitch: The central space of play where the bowler hurls the ball and the batter attempts to hit the ball.

Hat trick: when a bowler gets three batsman out in three consecutive balls

Four runs: When the batter hits a groundball that crosses the boundary, it’s an automatic four runs scored.

Six runs: When the batter hits a fly ball that crosses the boundary, its an automatic six runs scored.

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