As physical education department heads from Fairfax County Schools watched his presentation on cricket, Suresh Neelapala hoped that the confused faces didn't signal the passing of judgment.
"It's one of those sports that is hard to explain," Neelapala said of his favorite sport. "Then you get on the pitch and it starts to make sense. People begin to ask questions and they realize how it is played."
With each slide of his PowerPoint presentation, Neelapala introduced a barrage of rules and terms that faintly resemble baseball. When he opened the floor for questions, dozens of hands went up.
The most common question from the 27 officials representing various county schools was, "Can you explain that again?"
Although cricket is popular around the world, in America it often garners only a brief mention on ESPN when India and Pakistan play or the Cricket World Cup begins.
Neelapala wants to change that.
Along with the United States Youth Cricket Association and his cricket club, the Washington Warriors, Neelapala is helping to spread the word about the "gentleman's game."
The Warriors and USYCA have visited Maryland schools to promote the sport, which can trace its roots back to 17th-century England, but only recently have begun their campaign in Virginia.
On Monday, the USYCA worked with Elizabeth Payne, the school system's K-12 Health, Family Life Education and Physical Education coordinator, to stage a seminar on cricket.
During the meeting, Neelapala and other members of the Washington Warriors introduced the basic rules of cricket and conducted a short practice session in the Lanier Middle School gym.
They also informed the department heads that they would be donating cricket sets to each school, part of an initiative by the USYCA to give 1,000 such sets to U.S. schools this year.
"One of our goals as a club was to reach out into the community and spread the sport," Neelapala said. "So we reached out to a few teachers in Fairfax County, and the USYCA reached out to us to help out the schools."
Although Neelapala used baseball as a way to help explain cricket, the educators soon found out how different the two sports are.
The goal of cricket is to score runs by hitting a bowled (thrown) ball on an oval-shaped pitch (central playing field). Games can be played in a matter of hours, or in some cases, days.
A team plays until each batsman is called out twice. There are 10 ways to be called out, but the three most common include a mid-air catch by a field player (similar to a fly ball); getting "bowled out" when a bowler (similar to a pitcher) hits the wickets behind the batter; or being "run-out" (similar to failing to reach a base before the ball).
To score runs, a batsman has to hit the ball and then he and a partner on the opposite side of a rectangular-shaped part of the pitch, must run back-and-forth to opposing creases. Batsmen also can score by hitting the ball out of play for six runs -- just like a home run. A batsman has six outs before he is retired from batting.
Getting used to the new rules was a challenge for many of the teachers.
"It's hard to break some habits," Robinson Secondary School's Bryan Hazard said. "Like not running to first base, but instead running across the pitch back and forth."
As to whether or not the game will create a following among students, Hazard said his students have asked about it in the past.
"It's a cool sport and everyone in the world knows about it," he said. "Some of my kids who move to the school from other countries will talk to me about cricket. So I like knowing the terminology and knowing the sport to talk with them."
Key Middle School department head Neal Kalso said in the past he had purchased cricket equipment after students requested the game.
"I've helped to bring some international sports into the field, such as Aussie rules football, and we tried cricket, but we didn't know how to play," he said. "So this was an awesome opportunity for our school.
"The students really like learning new activities and this should be a new one that will keep their interest. Hopefully the baseball fans will enjoy it," he added.
After the seminar, Neelapala shook hands with the educators and beamed as they told him that they planned to implement cricket as soon as possible.
"It's encouraging to see students and teachers taking to the sport so well," he said. "I have a son who I hope one day can go to school and can have cricket as an option. If kids in Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka can love cricket, I don't see why Americans can't love it too."