To the casual passerby, Douglass Park resembles little more than a suburban patch of green grass near a major highway intersection.
White soccer goalposts are scattered and tilted on their sides. A chain-link fence separates an industrial zone from a handful of baseball fields with no backstops. To the west, the Devon Tower erupts from the skyline where Interstate 35 meets Interstate 40.
It’s a former city water and waste site turned into a livable outdoor space. But to a team still chasing childhood dreams, it means so much more.
Douglass Park, 709 N Bryant Ave., is home to the Oklahoma City Strikers Cricket Club, a group of amateur cricket players. In the northwest corner of the park, a newly installed grass surface plays host to its games against teams from Oklahoma and Kansas. And while the surroundings might be modest, it is another major building block toward the team’s ultimate goal.
“We want to get to the professional level soon,” said Nash Kannan, 32, Strikers president. “Eventually, with some help, we’ll get there.”
It’s a dream that began in 2001, when Andy Westmuckett, 55, and a few others founded the club.
What started as eight people gathering weekly to run drills has evolved into 35 men comprising two teams who play in a highly competitive amateur league. The Strikers used to play in a retention pond in south Oklahoma City. Anytime a game was interrupted by rainfall, play was canceled because of the likelihood the pond would flood.
But with permission from the city and help from some corporate sponsors — Connelly Pavement Co., Jacobs General Contracting and Urban Lawn and Landscape Inc. — the team was able to claim the new playing space as home.
“Our sponsors have been really generous this year,” Kannan said. “We don’t really get much help from the city. It’s not their fault. They’ve been really fair to us to help us in whatever ways they can. But it’s a budget issue.”
The world’s game
The Strikers are a model of diversity, with 35 members whose origins span the U.S., India, Pakistan, England, Africa and Bangladesh. With so much culture variation, and players’ ages ranging from 17 to 55, it can be difficult finding common ground — at least initially.
“As long as they speak English, we have no problem at all,” said Westmuckett, from England. “A lot of these guys, they’ll talk in their own language for most of the day, and when they come here, they have to realize they have to speak English, because it’s the one common language that everybody understands.”
It’s also a well-educated group, featuring a number of members with master and doctorate degrees. Some have children.