In-Depth

As Houston’s South Asian Population Grows, So Does The Popularity Of Cricket

The new Prairie View cricket complex will reportedly be the largest in the United States.

It’s a game in which a player throws a ball toward another player with a bat, who has to try to hit the ball and score runs.

No, it’s not baseball. It’s cricket. And it’s becoming more popular in Houston.

Recently, an 86-acre cricket facility opened near Prairie View, in Waller County.

When all fields are complete, it will reportedly be the largest cricket facility in the United States. And it may be a testament to a growing interest in the game, fueled by an increasing population from countries where cricket is traditionally played.

Businessman Tanweer Ahmed, who is originally from Pakistan, bought the Prairie View property and started building fields on it last year, because there weren’t a lot of places to play cricket in the Houston area.

“It all started actually with a couple of fields, just to give some players extra fields to play,” Ahmed said. “And then it just came to my mind, why not go a little bit extra, since there is more and more demand.”

The Prairie View complex, just off Highway 290, is now the home of Houston’s cricket league, and it’s helped boost interest in an already growing sport in the region.

“We only had one ground before, like 10 years ago,” said Ali Ishtiaq, who drives to Prairie View from Kingwood every weekend to play league games.

“Since Mr. Tanweer put these on over here, we got a lot of, a lot of people from Houston coming in and playing,” he said. “We have more leagues now and more divisions, more teams. It’s growing pretty much in Houston.”

It’s offering new opportunities for the increasing number of people with Indian and Pakistani backgrounds.

Babar Rafiq said he moved to the U.S. from Pakistan 19 years ago. He has played in the Houston Cricket League for the past five.

“In America, there’s opportunity for everything,” Rafiq said. “Cricket has been growing a lot since a lot of South Asian people are living here.”

And more are coming.

The Houston area’s Asian population has more than tripled in relative size since the 1980s, according to sociologist Stephen Klineberg, the author of the annual Houston Area Survey, published by Rice University’s Kinder Institute for Urban Research.

Back then, it was mostly Chinese and Vietnamese, he said.

“And the Indians were behind the Chinese and now the Indians are second only to the Vietnamese, and that’s in Harris County,” Klineberg said. “And in Fort Bend County, the Indian and Pakistani populations are the largest Asian community in that community.”

Klineberg is not surprised that these immigrants have taken their favorite sport with them and passed it on to their kids. While previous generations of immigrants often gave up part of their culture, he said, today’s generation is different.

“They become more American while also remaining Indian and Pakistani, partly because of the global communications and inexpensive travel, you come to America but you don’t necessarily abandon your connections,” Klineberg said.

The growth of cricket hasn’t gone unnoticed by the Harris County Houston Sports Authority, which oversees professional stadiums and markets the region for events.

“As more and more momentum and people join that are passionate about that sport, it starts to formalize and you start to see leagues and recreational leagues and facilities start to pop up,” the agency’s vice president, Chris Massey, said. “And so that’s what we’ve started to see over the last 10 years here locally for cricket in particular.”

Massey said the Sports Authority is monitoring the development of the sport in the region and will adjust resources that could potentially be used to promote future cricket events.

Back in Prairie View, Tanweer Ahmed said he hopes to host international tournaments here within the next two years.

“As a matter of fact, we had one of the Indian coach[es] came in today,” he said. “And he was very excited to see how well we’re doing over there and he even offered his services.”

Ahmed expects to add four more fields — for a total of eight — as well as bleachers and other infrastructure.

He also plans to promote cricket in schools to spread its reach beyond its traditional communities.

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Florian Martin

Florian Martin

Business Reporter

Florian Martin is currently the News 88.7 business reporter. Florian’s stories can frequently be heard on other public radio stations throughout Texas and on NPR nationwide. Some of them have earned him awards from Texas AP Broadcasters, the Houston Press Club, National Association of Real Estate Editors, and Public Radio...

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