Houston’s Cricket Huddle Aims to Create Online Community of Fans

Some of sports’ biggest stars played at Houston’s Minute Maid Park Wednesday. Their names were Sachin and Shane; the game was cricket.

Never heard of it, you say? “There are thousands of people who play in cricket leagues all over Houston,” says Rugved Damle, co-founder of Cricket Huddle, a Houston-based online community for fans of the sport. “We connect lovers of the sport.”

Cricket Huddle was founded earlier this year and helped organize the Wednesday match of all-stars such as Sachin Tendulkar of India, and Australian Shane Warne, who captained two teams of multinational players as part of the Cricket All-Stars tour Wednesday. Cricket heroes from the 1990s and 2000s batted and bowled in front of 28,000 fans in the Houston stop of a three-city series that also includes New York and Los Angeles. (For those of you who are fans, Sachin’s Blasters finished on 8-205, so Warne’s Warriors won by 57 runs.)

While unfamiliar to most Americans, cricket is gaining popularity, largely through the fandom of immigrant and ethnic communities who have brought this cousin of baseball back to America. (Evidence of this ignorance is clear in a video Cricket Huddle shot asking people for definitions of cricket terms.) The sport, though now largely forgotten in the U.S., does have roots here that go back more than a hundred years. According to ESPN, the earliest college cricket club in the U.S. is said to have been formed at Haverford College in 1834.

And in Texas, though dwarfed by the fanatical popularity of football, cricket has deeper ties here than you would think. The Dallas association, for example, was founded in 1960. Damle, an engineering consultant who played cricket at the state level in his native India, plays in an amateur league in Houston. With cricket being the world’s second-most popular sport, behind soccer, Damle says these fans are a vast untapped market.

Right now, Cricket Huddle is sort of a Reddit-type site with news clips of cricket articles from media across the globe. Damle and his three co-founders, who invested about $100,000 to get the site up, are now working on developing a mobile app to broaden the services offered to users.

Chief among those services is making Cricket Huddle an analytics and communications hub for fans and athletes. “Houston has a really good league system; there are 15,000 players,” Damle says. “But they still use pen and paper on the grounds. They basically use WhatsApp to communicate with each other.”

In addition, Damle says amateur leagues don’t have a digital way to organize administrative functions and collect scores and other team analytics. Once fully functional, Cricket Huddle could help. “Here, all the contact information is available,” he says. “The teams can highlight the best achievements and media coverage about the sport, all in one place.”

Angela Shah is the editor of Xconomy Texas. She can be reached at ashah@xconomy.com or (214) 793-5763. Follow @angelashah

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