Like many families primarily cooped up inside during the height of the pandemic, Farmington residents Phani and Vijayalakshmi Gorty explored outlets to channel the energy of their children, sons Saharsh and Shlok.
“We explored games we never explored before,” Phani Gorty said. “We tried volleyball, we had the whole net and setup in the yard. We played badminton. We played basketball, where we’d dribble the ball in the driveway.”
The Gortys, who emigrated from India, love cricket — the world’s second-most popular sport — above all else.
And they take it very seriously.
“There are two forms of cricket to me; one is where you just swing a bat when you can,” Phani said. “The serious form requires a proper kit and facility and needs a lot of setup before you can actually play the game. What I found in this country is that the proper setup is missing. You can play a lot of informal cricket, but not the formal one. The true enjoyment of the game is in formal cricket.”
The biggest problem in teaching the game, however, is there is only so much that can be taught without a full team, Phani said.
“My kids would throw the ball, have a catch, just like baseball. Just throw the ball, sweep the ball. … Then my kids were showing some interest, and their friends also showed an interest in the game.
“They were playing but they weren’t playing the right form of cricket,” Phani said. “So I thought, why not, let’s try to create a coaching academy? And we introduced the game in a proper way to these kids.”
So the Gortys in July 2021 formed their own cricket instructional academy — Premier Cricket Academy — which they are currently running out of their home.
Initially, Phani aimed for a relatively small number of academy members.
“I thought if I needed 11 final members, I probably need 15 [kids] to start, because three or four will always be short in terms of skills. So I started enrolling more and more kids to see if I could get to 15.”
The academy, which practices at Bristol’s Page Park and Casey Field in the summer and at All Access Sports in Plainville during the winters using an artificial pitch, started with about 20 members between the ages of 7 and 15 and has grown to about 40, Phani said.
Phani and two other coaches provide the instruction on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6 p.m. during the summer, for $40 a month. The winter instructions cost $65 a month, which includes six or seven hours of instruction per week. Novices typically play on Tuesdays, with more advanced instruction on Thursday.
While the fees are almost comically low, Phani says the academy, which the Gortys run as a side business apart from their professional careers, generates a small profit.
“We keep it very affordable,” he said. “It’s a little more than break even. … They’re getting a lot of instruction. It’s very affordable. I don’t pay myself. I’m not losing money. … My objective is not to make hundreds of thousands of dollars, but rather to promote the game.”
The academy, as far as the Gortys know, is the only one of its kind in the Farmington Valley and has drawn interest from the growing numbers of people from Asia and the West Indies who are moving into the area, Vijayalakshmi Gorty said. In addition, the academy also has children with families from New Zealand, Australia and England.
“I wanted to create a community,” Phani said. “There are a lot of cricket-hungry parents and kids. They don’t have an avenue. They long for something like this. You can imagine, but you can’t just play on the lawn because it won’t bounce, right? There are constraints out there. I’m catering to that need.”
So far the academy has U11, U13 and U15 teams, which have competed and held their own in tournaments along the East Coast, Vijayalakshmi Gorty said. The teams also compete against cricket clubs in Connecticut, including New Milford, she said.
The Gortys concede the nascent academy is starting small, but it’s growing.
For indoor play, the academy boasts an artificial pitch the Gortys purchased from an English company for $2,500, as well as a pitching machine to replicate consistent bowling seen in matches, Phani said.
Still, the Gortys are looking for a permanent facility on which to practice and play matches.
Vijayalakshmi Gorty estimates that she has made several hundred calls to municipalities and landowners in an effort to purchase the land for the facility.
“The biggest hurdle is people don’t want to talk to a small entrepreneur, a small business owner like me,” Phani said. “I think they’re talking millions [of dollars], they’re thinking big, I’m talking we want 5 acres. They probably have it, but they don’t want small deals.”
Phani says parents and children are happy with the academy, but the facility is of primary importance.
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“The parents are very keen,” Phani says. “It’s a small setup, and they want more. Everyone is really part of a family. We are from Farmington, Avon. We come together and we have our own team, we need to support each other. There’s a family feeling, but I know they are hungry for more. The first thing is to have our own ground.”
The academy is part of a cricket renaissance that is taking place in the Greater Hartford area.
East Hartford recently opened its own cricket ground on June 12 thanks to resident Parvez Bandi.
“I have been playing cricket in the Connecticut Cricket League for 23 years and always thought about having our very own Cricket Field in East Hartford,” Bandi said in a statement.
In June 2021, Manchester opened its first cricket ground to accommodate, at least in part, the city’s growing Asian Pacific American population, which increased by 65% between 2000 and 2010, according to the state’s Asian Pacific American Affairs Commission.
For information on Premier Cricket Academy, email email@example.com.
Ted Glanzer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.