LAWTON, OK (KSWO) -A Lawton business owner is helping to grow the popularity of a sport already enjoyed by more than a 100 million people worldwide.
Lawton Cricket Club President Muhammad Afzal recently approached the city and offered to finance the cost of building a true cricket ground at McMahon Park for the public and his team to enjoy. The city agreed to provide the labor as long as Afzal covers the cost for the building supplies.
While he and his team are able to hold cricket practice in the park, they've never had a proper venue, so his team has to travel in order to compete. And because of Fort Sill, he says the city often plays host to residents from other countries where the sport is popular, and he says they want to know where to play.
Now, there will be an official place to practice while also teaching others about the sport.
Afzal says they have been wanting to finally have some cricket matches in Lawton since they started.
"They will know the City of Lawton has their own ground and is a beautiful place to play," Afzal said.
When they club started, they played on tennis courts and baseball fields before finding a spot at the park. What the club needs is a concrete slab called the 'pitch.' When the ball is thrown, it usually bounces off the concrete, level surface before the batsman hits it. They will also add benches for others to watch.
Team captain Arif Qayyum says the real plus of building the ground is getting others involved.
"Whoever you know around here who wants to play cricket, we're ready for them. So they should come here and start playing with us," Qayyum said.
It can be challenging for a first time player, but Afzal says don't worry because as soon as the new ground is built they will offer training sessions to anyone who is interested.
Afzal says the one thing they really wanted is to have home cricket games. Since they started, they never had the 'home ground advantage' that can really help the team's chances at taking home a win.
The Parks and Recreation Department says they expect the ground to be completed by mid-summer.