Religion

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Health & Spirit

Cricket in full swing on Ramadan nights

Melissa Etehad, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Religious News

LOS ANGELES -- By 1:30 a.m. the cricket matches at the West Covina ballpark were in full swing. Farrukh Zafar stood in front of the wicket and gripped the flat bat made of willow wood, his eyes glued on the bowler who stood 22 yards away.

It was Zafar's job to protect the wicket, the bowler's job to hit it. The bowler hurled the ball, Zafar swung and what followed sounded like a heavy object dropping on a wooden floor. As the ball flew beyond the reach of the opposing team, Zafar's teammates erupted in cheers.

It was like a scene out of Zafar's native Pakistan, except the cheering was in English, as well as Urdu, and the field a small-scale replica of Dodger Stadium. Popular tunes from the 1960s, such as "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," blared from the PA system.

Then there was the timing -- a chilly morning on Day 21 of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, the most important time of year for Muslims. Late-night cricket matches are a long-standing tradition in Pakistan during Ramadan, when Muslims abstain from eating and drinking during the day.

On this Saturday in May, scores of Muslims, both immigrant and U.S.-born, combined traditions from the motherland with the American culture that they've come to cherish.

Doing so transformed the stadium into a space that helped revive their faith and recall childhood memories from Pakistan while allowing them to embrace their identities as Americans.

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The players set up the "pitch" -- where the bowling and batting takes place -- in the baseball infield, between second and third base. Most of the men wore sweatpants, T-shirts and baseball caps, while a few opted for comfortable overnight attire: PJ bottoms.

Zafar's initial triumph on the field was short-lived. A few minutes after 2 a.m., the match concluded. Zafar and his team members weren't exactly sure of the final score. All they knew was that they lost -- badly.

But that didn't irk Zafar or his squad.

"I knew we would lose. That's why we call our team 'Lakers,'" he said, laughing. "But winning doesn't matter at all to us. There was no strategy when we played because it wasn't about winning. It was about having fun."

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