Batsmen and bowlers are among the residents eagerly waiting the completion of Orange Township's next park.

Batsmen and bowlers are among the residents eagerly waiting the completion of Orange Township's next park.

Township officials expect to break ground next year on the $4.3 million North Road Park. Plans for the 22-acre site off North Road just east of Olentangy High School call for four full-size soccer fields, three youth soccer fields and -- in a first for the township's park system -- a cricket pitch.

Orange Township Trustee Rob Quigley said the proposal reflects township officials' willingness to take residents' feedback into consideration.

"It's a very diverse community and we wanted to accommodate everyone as best we can," he said.

Cricket, a game with origins that date at least back to 1500s England, spread throughout the British empire and gained converts in nations such as Australia, India and South Africa.

The game, in which batsmen attempt to score after striking a ball thrown by a bowler, is similar to baseball. Both games are played in innings ended by a set number of outs, feature a pitcher backed by defensive teammates, and include multiple umpires.

Unlike baseball, cricket is played on a oval-shaped grassy field with a narrow, 22-yard-long strip known as the pitch at the center. Bowlers and batsmen face off on the pitch, which is surrounded by 10 fielders.

Plans for North Road Park call for the pitch to sit between two full-size soccer fields to allow athletes from both sports to use the space at different times.

Township Trustee Debbie Taranto said township residents of Indian descent have been advocating for a cricket playing field within the park system for years. While fields of all shapes and sizes are coveted by township residents and youth sports leagues, Taranto said it made sense to focus on cricket and soccer at North Road Park.

"We also need more baseball fields, but Evans Farm's (developers) have promised they're going to be adding a bunch of those," she said.

Plans for Evans Farm, a nearby 550-acre neighborhood with a mix of commercial and residential uses, call for at least four baseball diamonds north of Lewis Center Road, near the CSX railroad tracks.

Quigley said the proximity of Evans Farm made the decision to go forward with a soccer-centric plan for North Road Park easier.

"There's so many soccer groups," he said. "There's never enough fields."

Orange Township resident Naveen Kanuganti, a member of the Lewis Center Cricket Club, said the planned construction of a cricket pitch at North Road Park is "good news for the entire community."

"It's not just one country's sport," he said. "It's a global sport."

Kanuganti said he's been working with township officials toward the goal of installing a pitch at a township park for about three years. He said cricket teams already exist in Delaware County, although they're often forced to travel to play and practice on area baseball fields that aren't truly suited to cricket.

Kanuganti, who grew up playing cricket in India, said it's "mostly an adult sport" in the county as of now, but he thinks a dedicated cricket field could go a long way toward getting young people involved.

"We don't have a proper ground ... where they can train the kids," he said, noting area schools have fields dedicated for many sports but not cricket.

Taranto said workers should start moving earth at the park site next year. She said workers will seed the fields in 2017, but a full season of growth will be required before athletes can play on the surfaces in 2018.

Plans for the park also call for the eventual construction of a concession stand, a playground and a shelter at the site.

The township will use funding collected through its park levy to pay for the project.

tgallick@thisweeknews.com

@TWGallick