One visit to Iqbal “Ike” Lakhani’s home explains just how deeply an Indian expatriate’s passion for the game of cricket can run.
Lakhani built a 10-acre practice and competition field across from his front yard in Gastonia in 1990. He spent much of the afternoon Sunday on his driveway, watching the Carolina Cricket League’s Division I final, with the Charlotte Lions facing South Park.
Dozens of league players and fans turned out to watch, with an Indian-inspired buffet set up tailgate-style on the sidelines.
“This is just purely for the love of the game,” Lakhani said of the field, which he calls Lakhani Cricket Ground. “I’m honored to have them here.”
That kind of devotion to cricket might seem foreign in the football-centric United States, but that’s one reason the league is so important, said Charlotte Lions Cricket Club player Pratik Shah. The game helps immigrants connect with their culture and build a community here, he said.
About 70 percent of the players on the league’s 25 Division I and II teams are made up of immigrants from India, and 25 percent are from Pakistan. The league’s players are scattered from Charlotte to Winston-Salem to High Point, but they come together on the field for a game from their childhood.
“In India, it’s an absolute religion,” Shah said. “People go crazy for cricket.”