Lake Norman & Mooresville

24-year-old bowls over the competition

You may recognize Mooresville resident Miten Patel, 24, as manager of the Citgo Yogi Mart No. 1 on Williamson Road.

What you might not know about him is that he plays the sport of cricket at the national level.

In December 2010, he played in the U.S. Open of Cricket in Lauderhill, Fla., for the U.S. Tigers Cricket Club, which is based out of Charleston.

Patel practices and plays locally with the SouthPark Cricket Club, and was scouted from the SPCC to play for the Tigers in 2010 by the team's founder and captain, Sunju Patel, who is not related to Miten.

He will play again in the 2011 Cricket Open in December; 32 teams will play.

Though cricket is not very well-known in the United States, loyal fans of the sport can be found around the Lake Norman and surrounding area.

Pick-up games of cricket sometimes occur in front of the Waterlynn Ridge apartment complex off Charlotte Highway, and others play on the fields of the Lowe's YMCA in Morrison Plantation some evenings. There's no schedule for the pick-up games. Patel does not play in the pickup games.

The game is often compared to baseball with batters called batsmen, pitchers called bowlers fielders, umpires, the scoring of runs and two inning-like units of play.

Patel describes cricket as more fast-paced than baseball - hundreds of runs are scored per game instead of just a handful - and as very rewarding for the players.

Patel will tell anyone that he loves cricket. He has played since he was in the third grade in India, where the sport has a large following. The sport truly is a labor of love for the players, as many of the professional teams that participate in the Open do not get paid to do so, though the championship team won a cash prize of $25,000.

For Patel, who played bowler in the Open but who occasionally also plays batsman, it was worth it even without pay.

He said he felt lucky to bowl against a world-famous player, batman Jermaine Lawson of the Bedessee NY Destroyers.

Patel's team, the Tigers, placed fourth out of the 20 teams at the open.

The cricket scene is growing in popularity. The U.S. Open of Cricket's first year was 2009, when they had only 10 teams participate. By 2010, the event had doubled the number of teams. Though Florida is home to the only professional cricket stadium in the U.S., with the growth of the Open there is hope for more to be built. The Open is organized by the Cricket Council USA.

Patel's involvement in the sport has also given him opportunities to help others.

In February 2010, he participated in a four-team cricket event held in Atlanta to benefit Haiti relief.

The SouthPark Cricket Club is a group of friendly players who are proud of Miten's national cricket involvement. They practice Wednesdays and Thursdays at Charlotte's Reedy Creek Park, playing games on weekends.