American sports fans have been sharpening their understanding of the game of cricket this month, as stars from 20 teams representing countries around the globe compete in the International Cricket Council’s Men’s T20 World Cup in the first time that the U.S. has co-hosted the World Cup - along with the West Indies.

And while matches are scheduled in Texas, New York and Florida, it was Washington diplomats who learned more about cricket on this evening, thanks to a U.S. Department of State reception for players from professional and youth leagues. Government officials mingled with the players, who enthusiastically explained cricket’s nuances.

“In cricket terms, I am ‘bowled over!’” said Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources Richard Verma, who formerly served as ambassador to India. The State Department is a natural partner for the sport’s enthusiasts.

Cricket has been gaining in popularity in the United States, in large part due to interest from Americans of South Asian or Caribbean heritage. While cricket is a hugely popular sport in much of the world, many in the U.S. are recent fans, typically coming at it from its less complex “cousin,” baseball.

Verma took part in a demonstration, where he noted the sport’s growing attraction among U.S. athletes. “More than 400 leagues have opened up in the United States,” he said, “with more than 200,000 players.”

Cricket will get a further boost among Americans when it is played for the first time as an Olympic sport in 2028, at the Games in Los Angeles. South African cricketer Jacobus (Obus) Pienaar, who plays for Major League Cricket’s Washington Freedom team, which co-hosted the reception, talked of his move to the U.S. to pursue cricket.

“It’s been good,” he said, noting that America has a good talent pool and a strong future in the sport. Youth league players, both girls and boys, were on hand at the reception too. Teenagers Nidhi Chukka, Aahana Ketkar and Manvi Koduri — members of the Sunny Sohal Cricket Academy in the Washington suburbs — said that while they started because their brothers played, they have learned to play their “own game.”