On weekends during the season, the scene conjures South Asia at the height of British colonial power. The game itself is an enduring product of that era, lingering long after the colonies won their independence.
The game is cricket. The place: Reindahl Park, home ground for the Madison Cricket Club. Wisconsin's capital: a cricket colony.
With the season winding down here this month, the weekend of Sept. 10-11 affords one of the last opportunities for locals to view cricket action at Reindahl this year. Six of the club's teams are scheduled to play. Sprinkled with isolated instances of Jon, Scott and Steve, their rosters are dominated by names like Dinesh, Praveen, Ravi and others common to India and neighboring countries. Club president Murari Pillapakkam attributes this to the region being "kind of cricket crazy."
Launched in 2002 by a group of men who had played pickup cricket matches while attending UW-Madison, the club numbered four teams totaling about 45 enthusiasts, Pillapakkam recalls.
Those numbers have since soared. The club's website, madisoncricket.org, lists about 140 players on seven teams.
Pillapakkam's own enthusiasm for cricket derives from growing up with the game in the industrial metropolis of Chennai, capital of Tamil Nadu state in southeast India. Cricket tests your endurance, he observes, but also your ability to concentrate - qualities that complement his career in information technology.
The greatest misconception regarding cricket, Pillapakkam suggests, is that it's boring. With hundreds of runs scored during some matches, there is little chance for tedium.
Cricket's learning curve can be daunting, he acknowledges. "If you can relate it to baseball, I think you can pick it up," Pillapakkam says, though there are significant differences.
Played on a large oval surface with a 22-yard-long rectangular pitch at its center, cricket involves two teams of 11 players each. One team bats while the other bowls (pitches) and fields the ball.
The batsman's aim is to prevent the hurled ball from striking the wicket (resulting in the batter's dismissal, equivalent to baseball's out) and to hit the ball so he can run.
The bowler's aim is to hurl the ball and strike the wickets for each of the opposing team's 10 batters, scoring 10 outs to close the batting team's inning while minimizing the number of runs scored by the batting team.
Fielders strive to catch the batted ball barehanded before it bounces. This also counts as an out.
Upon hitting the ball, batsmen may elect to dash from one end of the cricket pitch to the other to score a run. Sometimes they run back and forth to score multiple runs on one hit. Runs can also be scored by hitting the ball past designated boundaries.
The game's complexities extend to its scoring. Depending on how a match ends, results may be expressed in some combination of runs and wickets, such as 183/4 or 165/8, with the winner declared by a margin of runs or wickets.
Rooted in the 16th century, the game has evolved from England's national sport to one with an international governing body and rules layered in detailed specifications that have spawned a few variants to the basic game.
There is also vocabulary to learn. Words like stumped, bails, crease, leg bye, overs - a substantial glossary.
When a friend told him about the club here, Venkata Veluru had been absent from cricket for almost a decade but still knew its language. Despite broad interest in "almost any sport," resistance was futile. This was the game he grew up with. He is now the grounds manager for Madison Cricket Club.
A native of Hyderabad, southern India's "City of Pearls" and capital of Andhra Pradesh state, Veluru gravitated toward cricket matches played for fun with friends. A few, in his mid-teens, were competitive.
Now 35, Veluru notes that the Madison Cricket Club marks the first time he has played in a formal, full-season competitive league. He savors the opportunity to meet people from Australia and the Caribbean as well as South Asia and South Africa through their common interest in cricket.
The season, he explains, is structured so that each team plays 10 games leading to single-elimination playoffs.
"It's a difficult sport," Veluru says. "You need to put in a lot of practice."
Matches, too, are time-consuming. A typical local contest can extend four or five hours.
For all that, and even with the standings at stake, it remains the game of his youth, Veluru says. "It's still fun."