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

    S. African Farmer Goes From 'Voice in the Wilderness' to Sought-After Expert

    Margarest Roberts has authored more than 40 books on subjects like organic farming, urban agriculture, herbs and ‘superfoods'

    Millennial Men Prefer Bucks Over Beauty

    U.S. men aged 18 to 34 say the finances of a potential significant other are more important than her looks

    Multimedia Lebanese Clown Troupe Marks Valentine's Day Amid Stink

    Activists resort to unusual approaches to raise public awareness of country’s ongoing trash crisis

    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.
    Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growthi
    X
    February 10, 2016 5:54 AM
    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Civil Rights Pioneer Remembers Struggle for Voting Rights

    February is Black History Month in the United States. The annual, month-long national observance pays tribute to important people and events that shaped the history of African Americans. VOA's Chris Simkins reports how one man fought against discrimination to help millions of blacks obtain the right to vote
    Video

    Video Jordanian Theater Group Stages Anti-Terrorism Message

    The lure of the self-styled “Islamic State” has many parents worried about their children who may be susceptible to the organization’s online propaganda. Dozens of Muslim communities in the Middle East are fighting back -- giving young adults alternatives to violence. One group in Jordan is using dramatic expression a send a family message. Mideast Broadcasting Network correspondent Haider Al Abdali shared this report with VOA. It’s narrated by Bronwyn Benito
    Video

    Video Migrant Crisis Fuels Debate Over Britain’s Future in EU

    The migrant crisis in Europe is fueling the debate in Britain ahead of a referendum on staying in the European Union that may be held this year. Prime Minister David Cameron warns that leaving the EU could lead to thousands more migrants arriving in the country. Meanwhile, tension is rising in Calais, France, where thousands of migrants are living in squalid camps. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Families Flee Aleppo for Kurdish Regions in Syria

    Not all who flee the fighting in Aleppo are trying to cross the border into Turkey. A VOA reporter caught up with several families heading for Kurdish-held areas of northern Syria.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.