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