Like many families mostly locked indoors at the height of the pandemic, residents of Farmington Phani and Vijayalakshmi Gorty have explored outlets to channel the energy of their children, sons Saharsh and Shlok.
“We explored games that we had never explored before,” said Phani Gorty. “We tried volleyball, we had the whole net and the set up in the court. We played badminton. We were playing basketball, where we would dribble the ball down the aisle.
The Gortys, who emigrated from India, love cricket – the second most popular sport in the world – above all else.
And they take it very seriously.
“There are two forms of cricket for me; one is where you swing a bat when you can,” Phani said. “Serious form requires proper kit and facilities and requires a lot of setup before you can actually play the game. What I found in this country is that it lacks the right setup. You can play a lot of informal cricket, but not formal. The real fun of the game is in formal cricket.
The biggest problem in teaching the game, however, is that very little can be taught without a full team, Phani said.
“My kids were throwing the ball, catching a ball, just like baseball. Just throw the ball, sweep the ball. … Then my kids showed some interest, and their friends also showed 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 presented the game appropriately to those children.
Thus, the Gortys formed in July 2021 their own cricket teaching academy – Premier Cricket Academy – which they currently run away from home.
Initially, Phani aimed for a relatively small number of academy members.
“I thought if I needed 11 end members, I would 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 children to see if I could reach 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 artificial turf, started with around 20 members aged 7 to 15 and has grown to around 40, Phani said.
Phani and two other coaches teach Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6 p.m. during the summer for $40 a month. Winter classes cost $65 per month, which includes six or seven hours of classes per week. Novices usually play on Tuesdays, with more advanced instruction on Thursdays.
While the fees are almost ridiculously low, Phani says the academy, which the Gortys run as a side business outside of their professional careers, generates a small profit.
“We keep it very affordable,” he said. “It’s a little more than the break-even point. … They receive a lot of instructions. It’s very affordable. I don’t pay myself. I don’t lose money. … My goal is not to win 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 attracted interest from the growing number of people from Asia and the West Indies moving to the area, Vijayalakshmi Gorty said. Additionally, 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 have no avenue. They yearn for something like that. You can imagine, but you can’t just play on the lawn because it won’t bounce, can you? There are constraints there. I meet this need.
So far, the academy has U11, U13 and U15 teams, which have competed and held their own tournaments along the east coast, Vijayalakshmi Gorty said. The teams also compete against cricket clubs in Connecticut, including New Milford, she said.
The Gortys admit that the fledgling academy starts small, but grows.
For indoor play, the academy has an artificial pitch that the Gortys bought from an English company for $2,500, as well as a ball machine to replicate the constant bowling seen in games, Phani said. .
Still, the Gortys are looking for a permanent facility in which to train and play matches.
Vijayalakshmi Gorty estimates that she made several hundred calls to municipalities and landowners in an effort to purchase the land for the facility.
“The biggest hurdle is that 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 think big, I say we want 5 acres. They probably have it, but they don’t want small business.
Phani says parents and children are happy with the academy, but the facility is of paramount importance.
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“The parents are very enthusiastic,” says Phani. “It’s a small setup, and they want more. Everyone is truly part of a family. We are from Farmington, Avon. We get together and we have our own team, we have to support each other. There is a feeling of family, but I know they want more. The first thing is to have our own land.
The academy is part of a cricketing renaissance 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 played cricket in the Connecticut Cricket League for 23 years and have always thought about having our own cricket ground 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 Asia-Pacific American population, which grew by 65% between 2000 and 2010, according to the Commission on American Asia-Pacific Affairs of State.
For more information about Premier Cricket Academy, email [email protected]
Ted Glanzer can be reached at [email protected]