When Pranav Patel moved to Hamilton for his master's degree last fall, he wondered if his cricket playing days were behind him.
Patel has been a cricket player since he was a child and played on his university team in India. He wasn't sure there would be cricket teams in Canada.
"I was worried," he said. "It's the country where soccer and, you know, football [are] really popular. And ice hockey."
Patel found the Hamilton Cricket Club, which is celebrating its 175th anniversary, through Instagram, and became part of the province-wide cricket boom.
The club was formed in 1847 and is one of the oldest still in existence.
Hamilton Cricket Club president Rupert Albert says the club has nearly doubled in size since 2019 and it has been a struggle to accommodate the number of new players.
Albert says Hamilton currently has almost 15 teams and one field to play on.
In comparison, Brampton, the self-proclaimed cricket capital of Canada, currently has six fields dedicated to the sport.
"We don't have a waitlist," Albert said. "But because of our limited facilities, we do have a hard time getting all our members playing on the field."
The Hamilton Cricket Club currently plays on a converted baseball diamond at the Mohawk Sports Park.
The City of Hamilton announced they were building a second cricket field in 2019, along with two cricket batting cages, as part of the updated Confederation Beach Park sports park. City of Hamilton communications officer Emily Trotta said the project has experienced setbacks from Covid lockdowns, as well as staffing issues with the contractors working on the park. She said construction on the sports park is on track to finish in November 2022.
Albert says a second playing field in Hamilton would mean a lot for the club. The proposed cricket field would be regulation size and offer more authentic turf conditions.
More importantly, another field would allow more members to play.
"The biggest bottleneck for us is the lack of playing facility. Having another field will allow us to expand and not hamper our growth," Albert said.
For members, the Hamilton Cricket Club provides more than a few nights of exercise a week. Albert says it's the sport most of the club's players grew up with, and there is a big sense of community when they get together.
"When you go to the park on the weekend, you can see them connecting with each other," Albert said. "There's a big unity among players."
"It has played a big part in my transition, actually," Patel said. "I've made great friends because of the cricket."