Sport of Kings

The Honolulu Cricket Club carries on a proud tradition.

Sundays mean cricket at Kapiolani Park.

Photos: David Croxford

Show up to a sunday afternoon cricket match in Kapiolani Park and you’re likely to witness a great deal of puzzled gawking.

“We get all sorts of strange looks from Japanese tourists,” laughs Honolulu Cricket Club captain Mark Berwick. “Or you get people wandering up and asking if we’re playing croquet. Most folks don’t really know what’s going on, and even though we’ve always got the field coned off, people meander through the middle of our games all the time.”

Formed officially in 1893, the Honolulu Cricket Club (HCC) began playing regularly in Kapiolani Park more than 40 years ago, but the sport actually got its start on Oahu during the early days of the Hawaiian monarchy. Cricket was the favorite sport of King Kamehameha IV, who learned to play while visiting England in 1850 before helping to jumpstart the game’s popularity here during his reign. 

Today, HCC is made up of nearly 35 members—most of whom are ex-pats from places like India, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Australia and New Zealand. Ranging in age from 12 to 70 and pursuing careers in everything from housing construction to volcanology, club members are tickled to welcome anybody who’s interested.

Photo by: David Croxford

“We come from all over and all sorts of different backgrounds,” Berwick says. “But we’re happy to give up time on Sundays to play because one thing we all have in common is our love of the game.”

Regular club trips are an HCC staple; recent tours include stops in British Columbia and San Francisco. Welcoming visiting clubs is another ambition—2008’s competition calendar featured two Australian teams. Berwick is hoping to expand on a growing list of opponents by hosting an Oahu-based amateur cricket tournament in May 2010. HCC recently partnered with the Hawaii Tourism Authority in an effort to establish an annual 16-team international event that would feature clubs from across Asia and the South Pacific.

“I think there’s big potential to draw in-bound tourists from nontraditional countries of origin,” Berwick explains.

Baffled by the game of cricket?  Here are the basics:

Photo By: David Croxford

• A cricket ball is harder than a baseball.

• Eleven defensive players play in the field at one time, including the bowler (aka pitcher).

• Two batters play at opposite ends of a batting surface. Only one is pitched to, but both can score once the ball is in play.

• Bowlers throw towards a wicket, but the ball must bounce once on its way.

• The field is an ellipse, approximately 50 yards in diameter.

• The ball can be struck in any direction, so there are no foul balls.

• There are three types of cricket matches: one lasting up to five days, another 6 to 7 hours, and the shortest plays in about 3 hours.

• Only the catcher wears a protective glove. Everybody else in the field plays barehanded.

• Broken fingers are the most common injury.