Rana Kashie has a problem.
He left Pakistan nine years ago for Dublin, but still hasn’t found a place where he can casually play cricket.
“Here we have a problem about grounds,” says Kashie, standing outside Londis on Grafton Street on a recent Saturday. “Dublin has grounds. Phoenix Park is one ground but if we are going over there we have to pay and that ground is not for us.”
Private membership aside, cricket grounds in Dublin tend to cater for those playing international cricket. Kashie plays casually with friends.
“We are not playing with a hard ball,” he says. “We are playing with a tennis ball.”
But even so, says Kashie, casual cricket is frowned upon and lately he’s stopped playing altogether.
When Kashie and friends have tried to play softball cricket in Dublin’s parks they’ve been told they’re not allowed, he says.
Authorities have repeatedly asked them to stop playing in places like the Phoenix Park, according to Kashie.
According to the Office of Public Works Press Office, members of the public can only play cricket on the designated cricket pitches in the Phoenix Park. And then you still need club approval beforehand.
Kashie says other Dubliners play football casually in public places, so he wonders why cricket enthusiasts can’t do the same.
In the spring and summer months, Kashie and 20-plus friends and family used to head to a local park, bat in hand, ball in tow. It’s never gone particularly well.
“If we’re going to the Phoenix Park, if we’re going to any park, within 10 minutes security comes, the gardaí comes,” he says. “Where are we to go?”
“The people in Phoenix Park were saying that if you want to play cricket then you have to pay for that,” he says. “But we don’t want to play professional cricket. We want to play only with a soft ball.”
Casually, and in public parks, in other words.
Dublin has several dedicated cricket grounds.
On the Northside, there’s Balbriggan, Malahide and Clontarf cricket clubs.
On the Southside, there’s the likes of Terenure, Merrion, Pembroke and the Dublin University Cricket Club, known for its frequent play in the grounds of Trinity College Dublin.
But these clubs are private membership. Annual membership for an adult male to Malahide Cricket Club, for instance, costs €195 while an all-sports membership to Leinster Cricket Club in Rathmines costs €300.
These are dedicated cricket grounds, designed for proper play. Kashie and others want to know why there are no casual grounds in Dublin’s public parks.
Cricket in Ireland has grown in popularity over the past decade, they argue. So it seems strange there isn’t more infrastructure in place for the casual cricketer.
In 2007, the Irish cricket team beat both Bangladesh and Pakistan, stalwarts of the cricketing world. By 2019, Cricket Ireland Chief Executive Warren Deutrom hopes Ireland will be playing test cricket, the sport’s highest form.
In Pakistan, says Kashie, cricket is played everywhere: on street corners, down alleyways. “We just want, Saturday or Sunday, someone to say to us, ‘You can play here.'”
Independent Councillor Sonya Stapleton has tried to help Kashie and his friends.
Hopefully, she says, the council can work something out, but so far she’s not very hopeful.
“They [the council] didn’t really say a lot,” says Stapleton. “They kind of said, more or less, ‘We’ll pass this on and we’ll see what we can do.'”
This was last month, and on the back of questions that Stapleton had submitted to the council’s South East Area Committee regarding a lack of space for casual cricket play in Dublin.
Kashie says he’s been in contact with the council to see if they can provide a solution to their softball conundrum.
“They said they had a plan and they will check it and we will see,” he says. “But that’s all, and we’ve decided not play anymore.”
Dublin City Council Press Office hasn’t yet replied to our queries regarding casual cricket areas in Dublin, if it planned to provide more in the future, and whether its park staff stop people from playing cricket casually.
Stapleton argues that the council could provide casual amenities for the likes of Kashie and his friends. “I really didn’t think it would be that difficult to find somewhere,” she says.