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Local cricket club looks to future of the sport
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The Covington Conyers Cricket Club (CC) has had its roots in Newton County for the last 16 years. Though the team has a rich history, members feel a strong urge for change in order to ensure a prosperous future.

The idea for the club, which is one of the 22 teams in the Atlanta Georgia Cricket Conference, first came about in 1999.

“We met with Tommy Hailey, who was the department head at the Newton County Recreation Commission (NCRC) at the time,” said founding member Himesh Patel. “We met him and asked if there were any facilities around the area where we could play this sport, and he made us contact the YMCA director at the time and explain to him what kind of field we need.”

That is when Patel and company were introduced to Legion Field, which is where they currently host games every Sunday from April through November.

The club started with eight members when it was first established and now has over 200.

“When we got started, we contacted all of the local business owners and people around the area in the community to come and join us,” Patel said. “Then some people from all the way in Alpharetta came and joined us. Currently, we have players that come from Florida, St. Louis, Texas and Alabama. They come every Sunday. They travel, they stay here and they play with us, and travel back.”

According to Patel, Newton County is considered the hub of the cricket community in the state of Georgia as most of the grounds are located in this area. The club competes at five grounds, including the Covington YMCA and at schools like Fairview Elementary School and Newton High School.

But the issue is that none of the fields are considered “official cricket fields,” which make them unfit for state or international-level play. In order to grow the sport, Patel said, they will need their own field dedicated solely to cricket.

“Cricket does not get much exposure,” he said. “In some states, there’s exposure because some counties provide fields and stadiums officially for cricket. At this moment, if we don’t have an official field or official cricket ground, there’s no future.”

While the fields the club currently competes on have an artificial concrete pitch, standard cricket fields must contain turf in order to be considered suitable for a higher level of play.

“You can compete on it, but it’s not something on an international level or state level considered to play on,” Patel said. “So our goal is for the county to provide us with one field that we can call an official cricket field. If we get that, then we’ll have a lot of scope for the sport to grow in this area.”

Hailey was the club’s biggest supporter, but upon his retirement from the NCRC, there has not been much help for expanding the club’s resources.

“After he retired, there was no one else out there to help us to provide us with our official field,” Patel said. “But we have been talking to [Deputy City Manager] Billy Bouchillon, and he is trying to put this agenda through the county. That will bring tremendous amount of visitors to this area. People from all over the state will travel here to play the game.”

From October 14 to 16, 400 cricket members from around the United States and Canada will come to Newton County for a tournament, which will be the biggest ever. In order to host more, the Covington Conyers CC will need continued support from the county.

“Once we have that, we can talk about the future,” Patel said.