Rounak Jaggi grew up playing cricket. It’s in his DNA — no further explanation needed.
See the ball, hit the ball, and have fun.
“I played from the start,” the 35-year-old Chaskan says. “That’s my first game that I played. I just love it. There’s no reason. I just want to go out, be on the field, and play this game.”
Now, Jaggi wants to give local children the same experience.
He and several others are working with the Chaska Parks and Recreation Department to bring a cricket field to McKnight Park. It could serve as a homebase for the newly-founded Chaska Cricket Club and recreational games.
Club co-founder Anoop Kumar, 33, helps us picture the 11-player-per-team outdoor game. He’s been playing it for 20-some years.
“It is very similar to baseball, except that you can hit the ball 360 degrees around you,” he says, noting a cricket field is slightly larger.
There are two bases in the oval field: one where the pitcher throws the ball, the other where the batter stands. Then, the two teams compete.
“You try and score as many runs as possible,” Kumar says.
Equipment includes a ball similar to baseball size, a wooden paddle-like bat, wickets (which players can hit to get the batsman out) and protective gear.
The sport, thought to have started in England, is popular there and in Australia, South Africa, Sri Lanka and India, where Kumar and Jaggi grew up. Both the club and park officials say cricket is picking up in the U.S., too.
“Cricket is one of those sports that is very popular overseas and is slowly making its way over here to the states,” says Zac Johnson, Chaska recreation supervisor.
Jaggi says he’s confident about cricket’s interest level in the U.S.
“It’s a growing sport and, yeah, if you Google ‘cricket in the U.S.’ you will see the U.S team and people in the U.S. are investing big in cricket. By 2035 it’ll be a top five sport in the U.S.,” he says. “This is not gonna go anywhere. This will be here forever.”
Kumar and Jaggi play on the same amateur team through the Minnesota Cricket Association. They’ve played in leagues for the past dozen or so years, but it comes with a catch.
Most of the eight or so dutiful players in their group live in Chaska. And that’s not where the cricket fields are.
They’ll commute to Bryn Mawr Meadows Park in Minneapolis or Lakeland Park in Brooklyn Park.
“(It’s a) 30 to 40 minute drive for us,” Jaggi says. “That became a challenge for us, taking a lot of time out of our personal life.”
Although Kumar says the commute is a “very small part” of wanting a field in Chaska.
“It is good to have a field nearby for practice and stuff,” he says. “But the main driving force is to start passing some of the things we’ve learned and the sport itself to youth in Chaska.”
Late last year, Johnson and the parks and recreation department were already looking into possibly bringing cricket to Chaska.
When the Chaska Cricket Club first approached them about it, Johnson had already reached out to the state cricket association.
“We had no idea that cricket was actually here in Chaska,” he says. “The timing just kind of worked out perfectly.”
The department and club met several times to talk about what the field could look like. What fields could the city possibly fit a cricket field onto?
McKnight Park offered the most space, Johnson says, without barriers like fencing found in other parks. The park, which includes soccer and football fields, a playground, a shelter and walking paths, is directly west of Jonathan Elementary School.
“This is a perfect fit,” Kumar says.
The field, pending funding and city approval, could come to the park shortly after Memorial Day. The soccer fields share the space, so one sport would most likely play at a time.
Johnson says the department sees a proper cricket field as a plus for the city.
“Parks and rec, we’re always looking for some different programming. We’re trying to offer more programming to a diverse population,” he says.
The department’s park maintenance staff would be able to construct the foundation for the cricket pitch, paid for by the city with council approval. The pitch is the center of the field, made of asphalt under AstroTurf.
Marshall Grange, Chaska Parks and Recreation director, says the cost of placing that subsurface is “very reasonable.” It would likely cost the department under $10,000, he says.
Jaggi says after the department would build the pitch, they’d need more funding from the community for the AstroTurf. The club has met with Chanhassen vendors who approximate costs around $7,000 to $8,000. That doesn’t include money needed for the proposed youth program.
Luckily, Kumar says the local cricket community is strong.
He knows at least 50 families who play, adding up to 100 to 150 locals who could use the field and potentially chip in. A GoFundMe has been set up for the club.
There’s a prospective funding stream to the city, Jaggi says, if the state league named the Chaska field as a tournament spot. But for now, Grange anticipates the space would primarily be a practice spot.
A major part of the Chaska Cricket Club’s pitch is to teach children to play cricket in conjunction with the parks and recreation department. Johnson says camps could even be in the mix.
Both Kumar and Jaggi would coach, along with others, and are hoping to start with at least 15 or 20 children for the programs. It would be their fifth year coaching.
“We don’t have a lot of time to play this game. (We’ll) maybe play for another five to seven years. Let’s pass this on to the youth of this country,” Jaggi says.
According to a letter from the coaching team, leaders will focus on helping children develop skill as well as self-esteem, work ethic and teamwork. Coaching staff would follow a long-term player development plan from USA Cricket.
“We will emphasize personal development over winning, work ethic over talent, and principles over skills,” the letter states.
The program would likely run once a week from May to July, focusing on 7- to 14-year-olds. It would be for beginners and intermediate players. Practices would probably be around an hour (or more) in the evenings.
They noted the field would be open to all community members and could even include instruction for adults new to the sport.
“Just like any other sport, it teaches you how you can bond with other players,” Jaggi says. “And then how you need to be a good team player to play this game, which not only helps you in this sport but then in any other aspect of your life.”
Joining areas across the nation, Carver and Scott counties are seeing a rise in reported catalytic converter thefts.
The converters carry precious metals and can resell for hundreds of dollars once cut off a car’s underside. It makes the devices, meant to control emission toxins, enticing to thieves, according to local law enforcement officials.
Officials reported 11 thefts in Chaska by mid-March of this year, according to Chaska Police Department Det. Sgt. Jamie Personius.
In 2020, there were 30 stolen. In 2018 and 2019, converter thefts hovered between five and seven in the city. In a public post, the department noted that thefts are happening in communities across the metro. (Carver County Sheriff Jason Kamerud did not respond to requests for comment before the newspaper’s deadline.)
Across the Minnesota River in Scott County, the trend continues.
Though Scott County Sheriff Luke Hennen said the department rarely goes through a year without seeing catalytic converter thefts, he wouldn’t be surprised to see an increase over the past 12 months.
Hennen sees thefts along Highway 169 between Jordan and Shakopee, he said, especially at big box retailer parking lots.
Between March 2020 and March 2021, Savage saw 36 catalytic converter thefts. It’s more than three times what the Savage Police Department responded to in 2020 with 11 cases, Captain Bruce Simon said.
“(In) June we started seeing an increase. That continued up until at least one just the other day,” Simon said.
In Prior Lake, the tale is similar. Chief Steve Frazer said in 2018, only two converters were reported stolen to the city’s police department. In 2020, there were nine.
“So far in 2021, we’ve had six,” he said, noting that was just for the first three months of the year.
Rare metal prices like platinum, found in converters, seem to be rising nationwide at scrap metal yards, Personius said. On top of that, the equipment usually doesn’t have a serial number. That can make them difficult to track if they’re stolen.
He said people can usually get anywhere from $50 to $400 when they scrap them.
And if it’s a hybrid car?
“Hybrid vehicles have been targeted more often, such as like a Toyota Prius, because in those hybrids there’s apparently more precious metals so they’re getting upwards of $1,600,” Personius said.
In 2018, Shakopee resident Jenny McGee’s daughter’s first car had its converter stolen. They live at an apartment complex off Marschall Road, where the 1998 Honda Accord was parked.
It cost her family close to $600 to repair. Her advice to those hoping the same doesn’t happen to them?
“Park in a garage. There really is no way to hide. Mine was right in front of my house in broad daylight,” McGee said.
According to the Bureau of Criminal Investigation, highly-targeted vehicles include the Prius, Honda Elements, and Mitsubishi Outlanders.
Hennen with Scott County said it’s not necessarily a difficult crime to commit — another incentive for these types of thefts.
“There’s an easy tradeoff for a few minutes of work,” Hennen said. “If you’re going to break into a house versus, you know, you can get a guaranteed $300 for doing this.”
Perhaps surprisingly, newer cars aren’t necessarily prone to catalytic converter thefts.
“We haven’t seen targeting (of) newer vehicles,” Personius said. “They obviously don’t want brand new. It’s gonna look shiny and new, and scrappers won’t take it.”
In March of this year, Chaska resident Amber Houterman’s converter was stolen in the middle of the night.
The stay-at-home mom didn’t know it had been sawed off until her mechanic informed her.
“I took it in because it sounded like a hot rod,” she said of the 2005 Hyundai Tucson.
Luckily, it didn’t put too much of a dent in her wallet.
“The cost could have been exponential but my amazing mechanic welded a pipe in place. Thank you, lack of emissions testing in Minnesota!” she said.
It’s not necessary for cars to have converters, but certain states require it for pollution standards.
Local law enforcement officials say stopping the thefts starts with awareness.
Hennen said the department has extra patrols in parking lots, but in-between shifts thefts can still happen.
“The community is our best eyes and ears, but if they aren't aware of what to look for, they can't do anything,” Hennen said.
If people see someone hanging around a car or other suspicious activity, they can call their local department or grab the license plate number.
People can also pay attention to where they leave their car, such as parking it in a more public or well-lit area or engrave their converters.
The Chaska Police Department is putting information like this on their social media channels. It’s also looking into starting a program with local auto service shops, Personius said, “to try and help curb the thefts.”
He said the BCA is also working on enacting legislation to curb purchasing on the back end.
“One person or one group of people doing this has a huge impact. They’re going out all night long trying to do this. It’s impactful when you catch somebody and you can stop it,” Hennen said. “They’re not just gonna drive around one neighborhood in Chaska or Shakopee. They’ll drive around four neighborhoods in one night.”