April 4, 2008

Start spreading the news. They're playing cricket in New York

Peter English

Fewer than 1000 people play cricket in the Big Apple even though it hosted the national championships in 2006, reports Timothy Williams in the New York Times. However, the game has been introduced as a school sport and about 600 students are joining in. Despite the interest, Williams says nobody is expecting it to overtake baseball, football or soccer.

“In my travels around the city, it became clear that in the major parks around the city a lot of people were playing cricket on weekends,” the Department of Education’s Eric Goldstein said. “The old baseball field I used to play on in Cunningham Park in Queens is now a cricket pitch. It’s amazing to see.”

Parks on the edges of the city — Van Cortlandt, Soundview and Ferry Point in the Bronx; Canarsie Beach in Brooklyn; and Baisley Pond in Queens — are filled with cricket players on summer weekends, their crisp white uniforms presenting a vivid contrast on the grass fields. Some 650 adults play in the city’s six leagues.

And no story about cricket in the United States is complete without a description of the game.

It is similar to baseball, but with differences that can make it difficult for Americans to follow. Players run with their bats in hand; balls are bowled, not pitched; spit balls are allowed; fielders are not permitted to wear gloves; there is no foul territory; and bowlers (pitchers) sprint before releasing the ball, which typically bounces and picks up spin before reaching a batsman.

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Peter English is former Australasia editor of ESPNcricinfo

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