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July 23, 2008

Samir Chopra

America's definition of cricket

Samir Chopra

Will it ever be possible to get a fair depiction of cricket in the US media? On current evidence, the prospects are bleak. Every television advertisement that features a cricket game, whether it be a tourism clip for the Caribbean or something else, invariably features a rather staid setting, perhaps with cucumber sandwiches and parasol-holding landed ladies in the background, in which portly men in creams amble up desultorily and deliver donkey drops which are clumsily hoicked past geriatric fielders. In these settings cricket does not so much resemble a game as much it does a government-mandated exercise program meant to replace drug prescription benefits for the rich and elderly.

Every print article in the US press meanwhile incessantly harps on the utter incomprehensibility of the game (which is guffaw inspiring given the Byzantine complexity of NFL penalty rules), the jaw-dropping durations of Test cricket (with no attempt to explain what relationship the length of the game bears to the endless variations it allows on a single theme, and how this cultivates a dedicated legion of fans), the inevitable mention of the quaint customs of 'tea' (its almost enough to make one wish this interval had been named differently) and 'drinks' (American readers might be forgiven for thinking gin and tonics are consumed by players to help with the tedium of the game). Much is made of the gigantic amounts of protection worn by cricket players with snickering about baseball players facing faster pitching with only a visor-less helmet for protection. No mention is made of the fact that cricket allows for the ball to bounce before it gets to the batsman, which allows for varying angles of attack by fast bowlers at a batsman's body (I simplify, of course, comparisons between cricket and baseball need more time and space than I can devote here). And it would be too much of course, to ask that any attention be paid to the rich body of cricketing literature, possibly more varied and complex than that associated with any other sport. There are also some half-hearted, superficial attempts at examinations of post-colonial tensions in cricket, most of which involve the phrase "the new economically empowered Indian middle-class." All in all, it's a depressing state of affairs to be surrounded by a culture which specializes in systematic, cliched misrepresentations of one's most abiding passion.

Despite the growing presence of cricket leagues in the US, despite the introduction of cricket as a recognized game in New York schools, despite the presence of large expatriate populations from cricket playing countries and even an American cricket team, cricket remains a profoundly misunderstood game in the US. Still, one should not complain too much. Soccer has a huge following in the US and still remains misunderstood; plenty of soccer artistry is unappreciated by a large segment of the population.

But, how one wishes the television advertisements mentioned above would instead feature Malcolm Marshall sending stumps cartwheeling, Viv Richards smashing one through midwicket or Jonty Rhodes catching swallows at gully. Pigs would be aviators before then, but one is allowed to dream.

Samir Chopra lives in Brooklyn and teaches Philosophy at the City University of New York. He tweets here

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by Janelle on (December 23, 2011, 10:48 GMT)

Articles like these put the conusemr in the driver seat-very important.

Posted by Joe Cooter on (July 27, 2008, 12:56 GMT)

Posted by: Marcus at July 26, 2008 5:00 AM

Andrew from ESPN- this is a little off-topic, but I read that the KFC Cup will be held in Florida this September. Does ESPN plan on televising any of the games? Because I think the best way to grow cricket's profile in the US is for the general public to be able to see it firsthand. Also, apparently the experiment of braodcasting the Stanford series in Colorado earlier seemed to be a success, so I'd be interested to know if there are any plans to televise the next tournament to a wider audience.

I wouldn't be shocked to see Cricket on ESPN if they do what they say and change ESPN CLassic to a world sports network and Call it ESPN 3. Granted the Premier League will be the center piece of that.

Posted by Neil Bostock on (July 26, 2008, 21:10 GMT)

You can broadcast it all you want, but people have to watch it. I live in NY, I talk sport with people all the time, and it ain't gonna happen. Baseball has more of the rhythms of a Test Match than a Twenty20, and is loaded with nostalgia and traditions. I attended an exhibition 40 over cricket game in the Bronx in 1985, in a small football stadium, so there were lots of sixes. I talked to a local cop about the game, and he commented that watching so many hits was just boring, that the game didn't have the "nuances", strategic pauses, or ebb and flow of a baseball game. Sound familiar? Give it up, chaps, it'll never catch on here.

Posted by Marcus on (July 26, 2008, 5:00 GMT)

Andrew from ESPN- this is a little off-topic, but I read that the KFC Cup will be held in Florida this September. Does ESPN plan on televising any of the games? Because I think the best way to grow cricket's profile in the US is for the general public to be able to see it firsthand. Also, apparently the experiment of braodcasting the Stanford series in Colorado earlier seemed to be a success, so I'd be interested to know if there are any plans to televise the next tournament to a wider audience.

Posted by Joe Cooter on (July 26, 2008, 0:47 GMT)

Posted by: Andrew - ESPN at July 25, 2008 11:38 AM

As correctly pointed out above, ESPN bought Cricinfo last year. This shows the seriousness with which ESPN is starting to treat non-US sports such as cricket. The US has always been a significant part of Cricinfo's audience, accounting for around 25% of users currently.

Yes ESPN's management has shown an interest in non us sports. Having Said that, They still employ people like Jay Marrioti and Bob Ryan, who firmly believe that if it doesn't happen with in the lower 48, it doesn't count.

Posted by Neil Bostock on (July 25, 2008, 22:45 GMT)

Unbelievably ignorant comments from AJAX about American Football. Pansies? You have to be kidding me. Go away and watch several hundred games and then come back and make sensible comments.

Posted by Kartik on (July 25, 2008, 19:02 GMT)

"The US has always been a significant part of Cricinfo's audience, accounting for around 25% of users currently."

This is because :

1) Indian immigrants are numerous in America. 2) Many of these are software engineers, or otherwise groups that like spending a lot of time in front of the computer. 3) Until recently, cricinfo was the ONLY way to get live scores, due to a lack of TV broadcasts in the US. 4) This causes a disproportionate amount of cricinfo's traffic to be from the US (but not from US-born people).

Conversely, cricinfo's traffic from India and Pakistan may not be as high as one might assume, despite 90% of cricket's audience being there, due to low Internet penetration, availability of televised games, etc.

Posted by Andrew - ESPN on (July 25, 2008, 11:38 GMT)

As correctly pointed out above, ESPN bought Cricinfo last year. This shows the seriousness with which ESPN is starting to treat non-US sports such as cricket. The US has always been a significant part of Cricinfo's audience, accounting for around 25% of users currently.

Posted by Marcus on (July 24, 2008, 23:47 GMT)

Kartik

"Tennis IS played in the Olympics..."

You're absolutely right. I meant golf. Sorry about that.

Posted by Julio on (July 24, 2008, 18:29 GMT)

Kartik- Do your research! Cricket is in the next Asian games, Commonwealth games, and will probably be an exhibition sport either in Londin 2012, or the next Olympics. The only reason cricket is not an Olympic sport is because women's cricket is very boring. And cricket is growing! I am speaking as a cricket fanatic from Argentina, where more and more people are playing the game each day!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Samir Chopra
Samir Chopra lives in Brooklyn and teaches Philosophy at the City University of New York. He runs the blogs at samirchopra.com and Eye on Cricket. His book on the changing face of modern cricket, Brave New Pitch: The Evolution of Modern Cricket has been published by HarperCollins. Before The Cordon, he blogged on The Pitch and Different Strokes on ESPNcricinfo. @EyeonthePitch

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