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

Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Dynamic and debonair opposition leader had supported liberal economic reforms, criticized Russian president's aggression in Ukraine More

Oil Smuggling Highlights Challenges in Shutting Down IS Finances

Pentagon spokesman says Islamic State 'certainly continues to get revenue from the oil industry black market' but that airstrikes have made a dent More

India Focuses on Infrastructure, Investment to Propel Economy

Government expects economy to grow at 8 to 8.5 percent in next fiscal year 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.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More