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October 6, 2012

USA cricket

Twenty20 in the US: We've seen it before

Samir Chopra
Riley Park, Calgary, 2002. A view from the north of one of the cricket fields in Riley Park, Calgary, with the matting being removed following the conclusion of an evening match. In the background to the right is the second field. The beautiful sunny mid-summer evening sees the field already used by soccer players for a late practice.
Cricket in North America has often been played on matting wickets on Soccer pitches (This file photo is from Riley Park, Calgary, Canada in 2002)  © Unknown
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Reading about the US launch of a professional T20 league reminds me of another, considerably more humble US-based T20 competition I took part in some 25 years ago. As you might have guessed, these games involved students. In this case, a motley crew of Indian, Pakistani and West Indian undergraduate and graduate students enrolled at a New Jersey technical school. (Thanks to the large number of South Asian students enrollees, local wags suggested the NJ stood for 'Nehru-Jinnah'.)

Back in 1987, shortly after arriving in the US, I had already participated in one attempt to bring cricket to campus: arranging a telecast of the World Cup final. This done, our local band of cricket enthusiasts felt sufficiently emboldened to get off our collective backsides and actually play some real cricket. Miraculously, not only was cricket equipment like bats, balls, wickets, gloves and stumps procured, but lo and behold, so was a matting pitch. We would need it to solve the problems inherent in playing our games on the university's soccer ground.

As organisation proceeded and word was spread among the student populace about the upcoming games, a few of us met to plan the logistics. Twenty overs per side was settled on as the right number of overs; many of us had played games in that format at the school level, and the time we had for the game (on the weekends, after the soccer team had finished practice, and we were done installing the matting pitch) would only allow a 40-over game. We wanted to draw up teams as well from the list of those who had thrown their hat into the ring; we clearly had enough to make up two XIs, with some extra folks who could be counted on to not show up on the actual day out of laziness or forgetfulness. If we ran over the limit, we'd just have to find a creative way to substitute players.

At this point, one of the meeting attendees spoke up: "Hey, we should have a India v Pakistan game!" Three horrified pairs of eyes turned to look at him. Finally, someone spoke: "Are you mad?" (The literal translation of this from the spoken Hindustani roughly came to: Methinks thou hast had your brains eaten by ants.) We were perhaps overly sensitive about the potential for an international incident, but in any case, we quickly settled on the far more pacific alternative of an undergraduates v graduates game. Besides preventing an outbreak of hostilities, it would facilitate the mingling of the Indian and Pakistani players on the same team and lead to a cosmic Kumbaya sing-along, a Hands Across the Indus or the Wagah moment, if you will. (I should hasten to add that these teams featured one West Indian player.)

We played a few games on successive weekends. The pitch was as devilish as might have been expected, with awkward bounce despite the matting pitch, and fielding was very often a dangerous challenge thanks to balls that reared up at the most inopportune moments. There were a few dazzling batting performances mainly consisting of clean, straight hits delivered by those who realised quickly, like most amateur park cricketers in the US do, that the best way to get to the fence is to eschew the muddy, potholed ground, and take the aerial route.

And yes, we attracted many bemused and amused looks from passers-by; we were, after all, playing in the heart of Newark's grim inner city. The undergraduates won a few; the graduates won a few. No clear pattern of superiority emerged. There was little to no India-Pakistan tension in the games; perhaps the most awkward moment came when, on facetiously describing myself as a 'regular Fazal Mahmood' on being handed the ball for a bowling spell on the matting pitch, I had to inform my Pakistani teammate who Fazal was.

Our little tournament did not run too long; soon, early snows and the dismal north-eastern weather brought an early end to our season. It never restarted. For some reason, when the weather warmed up again, we had lost access to the borrowed equipment, became more busy with school work, and soon enough, lost our critical mass of sufficiently enthused organisers. I've never played cricket in the US again. Still, for those few weekends, our little proto-IPL (International Premier League) made us just a little less homesick with its sights and sounds, its importation of a whole new ballgame into these distant lands.

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

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Posted by Aditya Mookerjee on (October 13, 2012, 9:59 GMT)

It's perhaps easier for a nation to start playing Cricket in the T-20 format, than to start playing five day Cricket in the beginning.

Posted by Syed Hasan on (October 11, 2012, 13:48 GMT)

My name is syed hasan i am 24.I came to United stated in 2003 since then playing leagues in newjersey and newyork. Got selected for atlantic region played for them got selected for under 19's but too much politics kept me out i took 6 wickets scored 48 not out still not selected lol anyways.

Played for newark,cresent,middlesex in clnj league played for wolfpak,smashers,jcavs,and middlesex in millenium league played for jinnah in brooklyn league

in chicago i played for bright future cricket club,and chicago predators in ACC cricket

now looking forward for the t20 tournament hopefully no politics on that only merit.

I love the cricket in U.S.A we got immense talent but the only thing is lack of sponsorship and lack of money.

If cricket is helped by the local administration and ICC to hunt talent we can go along way better then division 3 in ICC.

Hope they will look for the new talent only on merit and no politics

Posted by florida on (October 10, 2012, 14:52 GMT)

I moved to florida in the late 80's, and as a much younger cricketer was exposed to a very competitive cricket league with a very good following. I saw the league grow with teams from India and Pakistan and even an english team in Serasota fl capturing a very good audience. However, there was never a plan of recruitment for young players (international) to replace and continue to sustain. Instead as the recognition slowly grew, the politicing overtook the real objectives of exposing the game itself, thus the result of such a decline.

Posted by Harshad K. Trivedi on (October 10, 2012, 3:49 GMT)

Well there is Cricket League being played on a regular basis in New Jersey and our family is represented by our kids ( 25 yrs old, I dare to call them! ) now. We 5 brothers used to play cricket in Kolkata, maidan sandwiched between the Victoria Memorial (for last 25 years Regular Expos being held there) and the St Paul's Church. Even after moving to USA we had a round of cricket with the boys in an unused Tennis Court and it was fun. There is Tennis ball tournament here in Rochester,NY every year in August-Sept, Called "Rustic Cricket Tourney". Cricket Lovers will never miss a chance to play the game anywhere. Its good to read that there are so many cities in US which have cricket players who wont Give up. Cheers to the Game of Cricket.

Posted by jay on (October 9, 2012, 20:16 GMT)

Cricket in heartland - mid-west is flourishing check the heartlandcricketleague dot com website.

Posted by amoluk singh sehmbi on (October 9, 2012, 15:55 GMT)

its wonderfull to see that cricket is back in USA...i ve played washington cricket league in 1998 for allen town cricket club pensylvania...mr sudheesh sachdev is founder of allen town cricket club.. ...this clubs lasts for few years.... me and my younger brother manohar singh sehmbi(under 19 indian youth cricketer represented india)invited by mr sudheesh sachdev by the efforts of mr sheetal pathak former ranji trophy player for delhi... we had great time in states we won the washington cricket league 40 overs after beating ahmadiyya cricket club mostley pakistani players..by one run....thats was amazing moment ..i love to play there again if i got a chance to play there in states... to promote cricket in states ...T-20 is the perfect format to explore cricket in states...this is extreamely populer now days and i wish all indians pakistanis and westindian immigrants should take charge to promote cricket in states from the school level...

i wish great luck for USA CRICKET..AMOLUK

Posted by laligam sekhar on (October 9, 2012, 15:06 GMT)

There is a very active tennis ball (also a regular) cricket league in Seattle, thanks to Microsoft, and Amazon. I represent a group of older cricketers who are physcians or engineers, who play with the (hard) tennis ball on an artifical turf wicket. The bounce is like an Australian pitch, but there is also some assitance for spiiners, with a lot of bounce, and a little fun. WE mare also trying to teach the younger generation, and they enjoy it a lot. This is what cricket should be, a participatory sport, rather than merely being a spectator sport. How many in India play cricket after they leave school or college? We need to change the rules to allow this, a shorter game, a hard tennis ball,about the same size of a cricet ball but with a seam, and gloves being allowed for fielders, similar to baseball. Then it will take off, not just in the USA, but many other countries, amybe even in India, among the general population of entusiasts, just wanting to have fun.

Posted by Shaffir M Sarafat on (October 9, 2012, 10:51 GMT)

Never give up. The game is here to stay. Future generations will churn-up players of repute and commitment.Love the sport.

Posted by Andy on (October 8, 2012, 21:07 GMT)

Played in the Washington Cricket league for 18 yrs .Enjoyed every bit of it.Mostly ex patriots from around the cricketing world .Some imports would grace our team from time to time .Marlon Samuels played with us when he was just 20 yrs old even Chris Gayle was here.Now my career has ended but it was enjoyable.

Posted by Ankur on (October 8, 2012, 11:26 GMT)

For someone living in India (in Delhi) its difficult to imagine such 'scarcity'. Weekend mornings in absolutely all grounds, evenings in all local parks, streets, etc, Television sets of all shops, discussions in metros/buses... Cricket is every-where. With the evolution of T20 cricket its expected to have more countries playing the game. Hope it spreads this time better compared to '87. Best Wishes, well written

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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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