News / USA

In U.S., Cricket Stages a Comeback

A batsman takes a swing during a cricket match between the Titans and the Blitzkrieg Crickets of the Washington Metro Cricket League.
A batsman takes a swing during a cricket match between the Titans and the Blitzkrieg Crickets of the Washington Metro Cricket League.

At first glance, the grass playing field at Mountain View Alternative High School in Centreville, Virginia, looks like any playing field at any high school in the country. But for a Sunday in August when most schools are usually still, there was a lot of activity, and the stifling air rang with a mix of Hindi and the occasional English cries of “Six!” “Awesome shot!” “Good running, man!”

Only they weren’t playing football, basketball or track and field. They were playing cricket, a sport which was last popular in the U.S. more than 150 years ago, but is seeing a dramatic resurgence as immigrant groups, particularly from India and Pakistan, grow.

This particular match was between Ashford Cricket Club (ACC) and the Willow Cricket Club, two teams out of 32 that comprise the Washington Metro Cricket League (WMCL), one of several leagues in the DC area and one of 45 leagues nationwide officially recognized by the USA Cricket Association (USACA).

“There’s not enough room for all the people who want to play,” said Hitesh Panchal, the captain of ACC and one of the founders of the WMCL. “There are just not enough places to play.”

The players in the WMCL are largely from the Indian subcontinent. Some are U.S. residents, some citizens and some here on temporary H1B employment visas. Many work in the computer field, said Panchal. They’re of all ages, some are married and others are bachelors, but they all share a deep love of the sport.

Growth Potential

According to John L. Aaron, the Executive Secretary of USACA, there are 20,000 league players in the U.S. and likely 200,000 recreational players.

He thinks cricket has huge growth potential as well, saying there are millions of people living in the U.S. from countries where cricket is popular, namely India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and the West Indies.

“It’s growing in two important areas,” Aaron said. “You are seeing people from countries where cricket is not played starting to play, and more importantly, it’s being handed down to the children of immigrants from countries where cricket is played.”

While there are no cricket version of Little League yet, Aaron didn’t rule out the possibility.

Aaron said that during the 2007 Cricket World Cup, which was held in the West Indies, more people in the U.S. watched than in any country other than India, where cricket is a religion unto itself.

Despite the increase in popularity, the United States is a long way from competing at a world-class level with countries such as India, England, Bangladesh, Australia, Pakistan, the West Indies, Sri Lanka, New Zealand and South Africa, the full members of the International Cricket Council (ICC) that vie for the World Cup every four years.

The U.S., for now at least, remains a second-tier, associate member of the ICC. However, with the recent growth in popularity, some of the world’s top teams have started coming to the U.S. to play exhibition matches.

For example, in May of 2010, the New Zealand and Sri Lankan teams played two, one-day matches at the only ICC-sanctioned cricket stadium in the U.S., which is located at the Central Broward Regional Park in Florida.

“There was good attendance,” said Aaron. “There were quite a few Americans who were not familiar with the sport, and they were asking a ton of questions.”

Cricket in the U.S.

It has been a long time since there was this much interest in cricket in the United States.

It was popular in the 18th and 19th centuries, and in 1844, the U.S. was the first country ever to host an international cricket match, which was against Canada. In fact, it’s said to have been the first international sporting event ever.

But after a brief heyday in the mid-19th century, cricket began to be pushed off the American sports radar by baseball, a derivative of Cricket often called “America’s pastime.” Baseball was seen to lack the aristocratic air of cricket and could be played anywhere by anyone.

It remains largely baffling to most Americans, but it’s fairly easy to understand if you know a little about baseball and have someone explain the rules. You’ll quickly learn that six is an all-important number—sort of the cricket version of the homerun in baseball, but worth six points instead of just one.

Serious Competition

While there were no spectators at the WMCL match, the league is serious enough to have come up with $10,000 to invest in the pitch, a specially prepared turf strip in the middle of the field where most of the action takes place. The league also maintains a very thorough website, complete with team and individual statistics as well as player profiles.

WMCL matches aren’t played with a regular cricket ball, but instead with a modified tennis ball. Panchal said this was to avoid potential liability as well as to make the game playable without the protective gear required when using the very hard, leather ball. Some leagues do play with a regulation ball, Panchal said.

The WMCL matches are highly competitive and taken very seriously by the players. As in baseball, when one team is batting, the other takes to the WMCL version of a baseball dugout, in this case, a couple of picnic tables in the shade by the field. From there, they shout encouragement to their batsmen. On the field, there’s more than a little trash talk, said Panchal.

Players are also not afraid to verbally clash when they feel a call doesn’t go their way.

Two controversial calls by the umpires cleared the benches, and while it never got close to trading blows, heated words were exchanged.

Cricket is not taken lightly.

“It’s fun, competitive and also a good workout,” said Ganesh Gopal, whose DC Yorkers team took to the field in the next match. “Why else would I spend almost five hours on a weekend for the game?”

In the end the Willow Cricket Club edged out ACC 143/8 (Overs: 20.0) to 102/10 (Overs: 16.5). ACC was closing the gap, but one of their batsman was called out on a controversial play. Panchal, like any competitor, blamed the loss at least partially on the poor quality of the umpire.

You May Like

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

1855 Slave Brochure Starkly Details Sale of Black Americans

Document lists entire families that were up for sale in New Orleans, offering graphic insight into the slavery trade More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs