USA June 29, 2009

Bridging immigrant communities in New York

Will Luke

Will Luke

Cricket rarely makes the pages of the New York Times, and if it does, it's usually related to the global game, not the sport in the United States. But today is the exception, with a wide-ranging piece on the power cricket can do for good.

Police Officer Jeff Thomson from the NYPD first got in contact with us a couple of weeks ago, and since then his force have staged a family day to launch their season.

But it is cricket's global appeal that can forge ties locally. With the game so popular in south asia and the Caribbean, those two communities in New York who sometimes struggle to integrate are given a vehicle to do just that.

“The Muslim community is not a community we had great outreach to in the past,” said Deputy Inspector Amin Kosseim, who runs special projects for the department’s Community Affairs Bureau.

And so the police decided to experiment with cricket, a game with a huge following across the Caribbean and South Asia. The response has cut across community lines. Tuesday’s opening match pitted the SuperStars — made up largely of players from Guyana — against the KnightRiders, a predominantly Pakistani team.

The NYPD have also had to make other adaptations to fit New York conditions.

For example, a strip of rolled and immaculately trimmed grass is normally used as the playing surface on which a ball bounces before it is struck by a batsman. But that strip is expensive and rare in this country. So the league’s matches, played at Spring Creek Park in Brooklyn and Kissena Park in Queens, use a substitute: a heavy, fibrous mat that is staked to the ground before a game.

At a SuperStars training session recently in Baisley Pond Park, youngsters on a neighboring basketball court looked on askance as the team carried the mat from a metal locker and used mallets to secure it to the damp earth. The bounce, according to the team’s coach, Ajaz Asgarally, was satisfactory.

It remains to be seen if the Police Department is able to nurture cricket talent in the way that other law enforcement agencies have. According to Keith A. P. Sandiford, a professor emeritus at the University of Manitoba who has written extensively on cricket, a police boys club established in Barbados to keep wayward boys off the streets once showcased the talents of a young Garfield Sobers.

Read the full piece and leave your comments below.

Will Luke is assistant editor of ESPNcricinfo

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  • testli5504537 on July 15, 2009, 5:23 GMT

    I completely agree with Peter Della Penna that Americans appreciate all sports and when they can follow Golf then why not Cricket. It will take much time and efforts to get the game into mainstream, what is needed is dedication and quality Cricket (and a quality Cricket Board).

  • testli5504537 on July 5, 2009, 15:03 GMT

    Well put Peter,Adam and Shan.People of Indian origin in the US are the highest income group,enough to support cricket,together with others of a "cricket background".The "expat" disparagement should be discarded.Cricket is the Original American sport,played by George Washington,and American men like competition. The NY Times covered my American College Cricket Spring Break Championship in March,and did a great job.The interest shown by Americans in the Championship vindicated my feeling that cricket,once marketed properly,will make a US impact.Schools celebrated their participating cricket Teams,and the Champions Montgomery College was written about by local news media. I have talked about the longer and slower golf being successful whilst cricket remain hamstrung by outmoded generalities.Check out too the NYC High School (PSAL)Cricket League, in which 23 Schools fielded Teams and the Daily News did a full page article.

  • testli5504537 on July 2, 2009, 22:22 GMT

    Completely agree with Adam Scholem. As a born and raised American, I got into the game only four years ago while studying abroad in Australia during the 2005 Ashes and have been hooked ever since. Most of my American friends who were abroad with me were absolutely hooked once we saw Shane Warne's bowling and Adam Gilchrist's batting. The problem for most is sustaining interest upon return to the US. There are limited opportunities to view and play cricket compared to other countries where it is ingrained in the culture. If Americans can sit and watch a golf tournament like the US Open at Bethpage for nine hours a day, four days straight, then they can watch cricket for as long as a Test or as short as T20. Americans appreciate all sports, especially quality. Take soccer: ratings and attendance are poor for the MLS, but good for Champions League matches and for international fixtures. If quality cricket was played and shown here on a regular basis, people would definitely take interest.

  • testli5504537 on June 30, 2009, 15:26 GMT

    Billy, well done. You've dragged out all the old disparagements of cricket in the States, which have absolutely nothing to do with this article or any of the comments posted here. The New York City Police are running a cricket league which is integrating diverse communities and bridging the gaps between them and the police. In the process, they're getting a bit of coverage for the game. Oh no! Some Yank might come to recognize cricket when they see it. Heaven forefend! Americans have an incredible capacity to watch and appreciate sports, even foreign ones. I've seen bars packed at odd hours to watch rugby or Aussie rules. With a little patience (and avoiding getting into silly mid-on in the first five minutes), I've been able to explain cricket to almost everyone, and they've been quite keen on the game since then. Just because most people who grew up with cricket can't explain it worth a damn is no reason to write off the Americans. Wouldn't it be horrible if they liked it?

  • testli5504537 on June 30, 2009, 13:07 GMT

    Billy, right now for ICC, to talk abt commerce, Cricket in America doesnt need whites... It jus needs those thousands of millionaire/billionaire South-Asian expatriates to get into the game... That will take care of the rest for the time being...

    And, adding to ur point: Hav u touched a baseball, its so soft compared to Cricket leather ball, yet they need those heavily padded gloves... =))

  • testli5504537 on June 30, 2009, 8:13 GMT

    i am not sure why are all these cricket afficionados so happy when it comes to cricket in america. America will never have a cricket crazed lot in a century.It is a game that will always be for immigrants from South Asia or the caribbeans. For the American born basketball, hockey, and Baseball are the sports to play. I dont see it changing soon. They would rather watch some weird nascar races or curling than cricket. And i hate it when people compare cricket to and like baseball. Cricket is played by gentlemen and baseball by roids. In cricket you have to man enough to catch the ball with bare hands and be ready for toe crushing yorkers or head hitting bouncers. Every thing is thought out according to situation by the batsmen and fielding side. You just dont run on every ball that u hit if u dont want to unlike in baseball.

  • testli5504537 on June 30, 2009, 6:53 GMT

    Will Luke is so right! In some ways bridging societies must be seen as the raison d'etre of cricket. Witness Afghanistan, and now cricket in Sierra Leone and Rwanda - the work of Cricket Without Boundaries - and the new Kenya line-up, to be displayed in Eglinton, Northern Ireland, this weekend, with a new Luo captain and a Kikuyu vice-captain; and I'm sure the Ireland team contains both Catholics and non-Catholics. And the same with the women's game, about which Will (and Andrew Miller) write so brilliantly. It's a wonderful time for the game, and we should rejoice in it! Congratulations to the NYPD! 'Topspinner'

  • testli5504537 on June 29, 2009, 21:29 GMT

    I was just coming here to send in a link to this story, and was beaten by eight minutes! Congratulations to Officer Thompson and all the dedicated policemen who put this event together. It's a commendable effort, and the competition's not bad, either. I hope to catch a few of the games this season, in the NYPD Cricket jersey I got in the raffle at the fundraiser for the Victorian bushfires back in February. New York might not be the general path for cricket, but we're plugged in to the cricketing world quite closely.

    Again, congratulations to the officers, the Department as a whole, and of course the players!

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