Mark Berwick, one of the few Americans in the club, is its president (“a thankless job,” he claims, smiling). He grew up in Hawai‘i, started playing in college in California, moved to Australia and got seriously hooked on the game. “In cricket, there’s a deeper level of strategy that I really am drawn to,” he says, explaining the sport. It essentially works like this: There are two wickets, one at either end of a batting surface. At one end is the bowler, at the other the batsman. The bowler tries to get the batsman out, usually by tossing the ball and knocking down the wickets; the batsman tries to get as many runs as possible, a feat accomplished by hitting the ball and dashing from one wicket to the other. Each team has eleven members, and each game has a certain number of “overs” (think “innings”). At the end, the winners are the ones with the most runs. That’s only skimming the surface of a highly intricate set of rules. “I think of baseball as checkers and cricket as chess,” says Mark. “Every aspect has an added level of complexity.”
Standing in the park on a Sunday afternoon, Mark is expansive and enthusiastic. The club welcomes all comers—women, kids, “Everyone!” he says, pointing to the youngest member, who is about to bat: a 10-year-old boy with a cricket-loving Australian mother. This theme of sociability is echoed by all. “This is a cricket club, not really a cricket team,” says Owen O’Callaghan in his soft brogue. “I love being a member. It’s got a great international flavor, and when we meet up after the game, our discussions have a real international perspective.”
Standing next to him as he speaks is another resident of the global village, Bishnu Ramsarran. “Ram” grew up playing cricket in South America, in Guyana. At 17, he traveled to New York and joined the US Army. Over a twenty-eight-year career, he rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel, and all that time in the service shows in his perfect posture and to-the-point personality. Ram joined HCC in 1986, making him, with twenty-two years of playing cricket in Kapi‘olani Park, its longest member. Though his passion for the game is evident—over the years he’s organized numerous HCC matches, even against the Australian and New Zealand navies—he echoes Mark’s and Owen’s sentiments. “It’s a social club,” he says, standing in the park and, having just finished his batting, cracking open a beer.
Ram’s memories of playing the Australian and New Zealand navies underscore one of Mark’s points: The HCC plays visiting teams whenever possible. Club members also tour; last September, they returned victorious from an eight-day trip to British Columbia where, deep in the Land of Cricket, they won four out of five matches—even though as they headed out to BC, Mark was quipping that they would be packing lots of Ben Gay, ibuprofen and sports tape. In April, they’ll host a team from Australia and they’ll head back to Canada in August and then to Australia in March 2009. Back at home, they play almost year-round in the park, two or three matches a month, from mid-September to early July. And they clearly love it.
“This is the most beautiful place you can play cricket,” says kiwi Russel Freeman, the snake-killing cricketer who has played all over the globe for half a century. “There’s nowhere else in the entire world where you can play cricket year-round, nowhere. With Diamond Head on one side and the Waikiki Shell on the other”—he glances out at the ocean and smiles—“it’s a dream come true.” HH
To reach the Honolulu Cricket Club, visit www.honolulucricketclub.org or call Mark Berwick at (808)384-7292.