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

Video On the Scene: In Gaza, Darkness Brings Dread and Death

Palestinians fear nighttime raids, many feel abandoned by outside world, VOA's Scott Bobb reports More

African Small Farmers Could Be Key to Ending Food Insecurity

Experts say providing access to microloans, crop insurance, better storage facilities, irrigation, road systems and market information could enable greater production More

University of Michigan Wins Solar Car Race

Squad guided its student-designed solar-powered vehicle to fifth consecutive time victory in eight-day bi-annual American Solar Challenge 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.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid