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Cricket is said to have originated during the Dark Ages in Northern Europe. When cricket first began, it involved two players: one who bowled an object, and the other who hit it with a club. Over time cricket evolved. It is estimated that during the Tudor Times (1485-1603) its transformation completed, resulting in what the sport that we play today. The game was a popular leisure activity among the younger generations at English schools in Kent, Sussex, and Surrey.

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Map of ICC Members

Cricket spread worldwide thanks to the British Empire - the imperialists carried the sport with them as they colonized. For this reason, cricket is very popular in India, the West Indies, and South Africa - all former British colonies. According to Habibul Haque Khondker, “Cricket for the British was a tool for civilizing the colonial subjects by spreading the values of Victorian morality and character building.” It was also said that, “Cricket was seen as an ideal way to socialize natives who were perceived as lazy, enervated, and effete into new modes of intergroup conduct and new standards of public behavior.” After decolonization, the people of the former colonies continued to play the sport; perhaps because it became so ingrained in their culture and upbringing.

In his book Beyond A Boundary, C.L.R. James says, “I haven’t the slightest doubt that the clash of race, caste and class did not retard but stimulated West Indian cricket. The class and racial rivalries were too intense. They could be fought out without violence or much lost except pride and honour.” As previously noted, cricket "civilized" the colonies, allowing them to experience a respect for the laws, a control of emotions, and a sense of loyalty.

When the cricket-loving immigrants came to the United States, they brought the sport with them and they continue to play today.

How to Play

Here is a short video explaining some rules and roles:

The game of cricket is played like most sports games: with two teams facing off. Each team has eleven players, as well as a backup player, called a “twelfth man.” The twelfth man's only function is to substitute for another player on the grounds of injury. In addition, there are usually three umpires. The two on the field make decisions, and the third is in charge of video decisions, which occur when the call is too close for the field umpire to decide.

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Cricket Field

The players play cricket on a grassy field. Located in the center of the cricket field is the pitch, which is a flat turf that measures 22 yards in length. There are three stumps at each end of the pitch, and at each end the three stumps are connected by two bails on top of the stumps. The three stumps and two bails put together are called a “wicket.” About 4 feet from the wicket, is the base where the batsman stands to bat.

There are four main positions in cricket: batsman, bowler, fieldsman, and wicket keeper. This is similar to America's favorite pastime, baseball. The batsman is similar to a batter in baseball where he stands on the base with two batsmen on the field, one always at each end. The batsman's purpose is to hit the ball and run between the wickets up to four or six times per bowl. The bowler is similar to that of a pitcher; his job is to bowl the ball to hit the wicket and essentially make it as hard as possible for the batsman to score runs. The fieldsmen are similar to the fielders; they are there to catch the ball after it has been hit or bowled and to stop it from going out of the boundary. The wicket keeper is similar to the catcher; his job is to stand behind the stumps and to stop the ball from passing him.

The purpose of this game is to score the most runs. A run is scored when a batsman either reaches from one end of the pitch to the other or if he bats and the ball reaches outside of the boundary. In order for a run to be scored both of the batsman have to reach the opposite ends of the pitch. If a batsman hits the ball outside of the boundary, they either get four (if the ball touched the ground) or six (if the ball did not touch the ground) runs. However, if the batsmen physically runs more than four or six times (depending on the rules) any more runs are considered null and void.

In Pakistan

Without toilets in Spring Creek Park and safe benches in Cunningham Park, Pakistani Ijaz Ahmed Qureshi had one thing to say, "Let's move to England." He says this because he lives in Long Island and must travel out to Brooklyn or Queens just to play cricket- having conditions less than enjoyable. With family living in Bradford, England -- also known as "Bradistan" (Bradford + Pakistan), Qureshi describes the various cricket leagues in the one town. He jokes, however, "The weather isn't as great as New York's. I guess I should move back to my little village and play in the fields."

In Pakistan's larger cities of Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore, and Rawalpindi, Pakistanis play in cricket stadiums wearing proper attire; but, this doesn't account for many. Villagers, like Qureshi played in Salwar Kameez in the wheat fields with other men from the village."أود العودة الى باكستان لكن لا يمكنك العثور على وظائف. وإذا كنت تلعب الكريكيت أو عمل? لقد جئت للعمل.," the Mirpuri-speaking Pakistani says. When translated, Qureshi joked, "I would return to Pakistan but you can't find jobs there. Shall I play cricket or work? I'm destined to work"; he says this as a father of a two-year old and the youngest of five children -- he must send money back home to his family.

When the World Cup is on, people of the village would get together to watch it in a cafe since most people don't have cable television in their homes. Nearly every Pakistani knows the scores of cricket games, unlike the Pakistanis in America who are only knowledgeable of baseball, tennis, basketball, or football. Dedicated heavily to cricket and rugby, Pakistan's cricket stadiums are huge; the smallest ones have the capacity of holding 5,000, while the largest ones have the capacity of holding over 48,000 people. While matches are held in Pakistani stadiums, no World Cup matches have been held there in the past decade, possibly because of the low audience turnout in Pakistan. Mirpur, an economic district in Azad Jammu Kashmir also has its own stadium - Quaid-E-Azam Stadium, with tickets costing from 250 rupees up to 2,500 rupees ($3 to $30).

Immigrants in New York can afford the priciest tickets because they work; however, they have no stadium to watch a professional cricket game in. According to the Cricket Organization of America, by 2012 the U.S. should have its own professional test cricket team based in Florida, where the team would have its own stadium and state-of-the-art facilities to train in.

Will Shahid Afridi or Younis Khan come from Pakistan to play in Florida where there are fewer than 1,000 cricket fans? A cricket stadium in New York would have been more ideal, as it would be stationed near little India (Jackson Heights) and a heavy South Asian community.

History of Cricket in America

Despite its short-lived American legacy, the game of cricket has a history
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George Washington - A supporter of cricket
in the United States that would surprise even the most devout of cricket fans. Since its introduction by British colonists almost three hundred years ago, cricket has seen its highs and lows in this country. Following its earliest reference in the 1709 diaries of William Byrd, the game’s appeal in America was initially, steadily on the rise. Several states along the eastern coast of America had in fact formed their own cricket teams that competed not only on a domestic level, but also internationally, with other states and cities around the world. In a match played in New York City in 1751, the XI of New York went as far as defeating their counterparts, and pioneers of the game, XI of London. Coverage of the game in newspapers and journals further enhanced its appeal in the eyes of the public. Match reports and scorecards of games that appeared in newspapers such as the New York Weekly Post Boy, and advertisements of cricketing equipment that appeared in the New York Independent Journal helped create public awareness of the game.

Unlike today, cricket in America has not always been an immigrant’s sport; the gentleman’s game, true to its name, caught the eyes of some of the greatest gentlemen of this country. George Washington and John Adams were two of the many presidents who took to the game as a pastime. There is evidence suggesting that George Washington's troops played a version of cricket at Valley Forge in 1778. In addition, President Lincoln is said to have attended the 1859 cricket match between Chicago and Milwaukee. In fact, it is even thought that Benjamin Franklin contributed to the formalization of the rules of the game, when in 1754 he brought to America a copy of the “London Method,” the 1744 Laws, which contained the official rules of the game.

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The First International Cricket Match

The success of Philadelphia Cricket Club, one of the oldest clubs in the country founded by young men of English descent, marked the “Golden Age” in the history of American cricket, when it went on to become the country’s national sport. It was then that the US national team even participated in cricket’s first international game against Canada. Although controversial, this game at Bloomingdale Park, Manhattan in 1844 drew close to 20,000 supporters, and is considered to be the world’s first international sporting rivalry.

Despite the promising start, cricket’s success in America was short lived. With the onset of baseball, fans ditched one bat and ball sport for another- faster-paced, probably less “girly” sport. The anti-British emotions stemming from the Revolutionary War allegedly further contributed to the sport’s decline.

With so much of the game’s history embedded in American culture, cricket’s present status in this country is truly a pity. However, with its ever-expanding horizons, the future of cricket in America once again looks bright.

Cricket in New York City

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Sanjay Joseph and the Bronx Science cricket team
From Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, the game of cricket is increasingly changing the millions of lives it touches each year. Cricket, in nations like India, is more than just a game, it is a way of life; people in such nations eat, sleep, and drink cricket.

So what happens when thousands of cricket aficionados immigrate each year to non-cricketing nations like America? Are they quick to leave behind this seemingly inseparable part of themselves and their daily rigmarole? The answer according to Sanjay Joseph, a seventeen year old immigrant from India, is no. Cricket, according to him, stamps onto its supporters a love and passion for the game that is hard to ever erase. Therefore, wherever a cricketer goes, he takes with him his companion and prized possession: his cricket bat.

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The Little Master- Sachin Tendulkar

With well over 300,000 New York City residents tracing their origins to nations of the Indian subcontinent such as India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, finding a cricket fan in our diverse city is not difficult. Despite the game’s relatively subservient status in the American sporting scene, cricket’s appeal today is steadily on the rise. The New York City park system is testimony to this increasing popularity of the game. A visit to the Van Cortlandt Park, Kissena Park, or the Ferry Point Park will show you glimpses of the great “gentleman’s game.” Today, the sport is slowly being incorporated at the varsity level, as schools such as the Bronx High School of Science are creating their own cricket teams with players and coaches to compete with other New York City public schools.

Cricket as a symbol of New York City

One of the many reasons why New York is called the melting pot of the world is that immigrant’s who come to this city, introduce customs and practices that are foreign to New York while simultaneously absorbing what it has to offer them. The addition of cricket to New York is not only changing the city’s sporting culture, but also the way immigrants settle down and enjoy their lives. Today's cricketing fans no longer need to learn an American sport such baseball upon arriving here. Visiting some of the above-mentioned parks will provide them a new sporting option; cricket.

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President Obama demonstrating his cricketing skills to Brian Lara, a cricketing legend

Although cricket’s basic rules remain the same regardless of where it is played, several modifications have been made in terms of how the game is played, that further exemplify the melting pot phenomenon of this city. Cricket in India is usually played with either a rubber ball or a hard ball made from leather and cork. In America however, after playing alongside Pakistanis and West Indians, Indians have started using a much lighter, “tape ball” that is seldom used in India. In addition, in New York unlike back home, we often see Indians and Pakistanis take a long run-up before releasing the ball in an “under-arm” motion. This style has been probably learnt after coming to New York, once again, by playing alongside the West Indians, amongst whom this practice is prevalent.

Modern technological advances such as the television and the computer further provide present day cricket lovers in America luxuries that immigrants of the past were deprived of. Today, through the services of peer-to-peer (P2P) internet applications, and cricket broadcasters such as Dish Network, DirecTV and Willow TV, American cricket fans not only get to watch their mentors such as Sachin Tendulkar and Brian Lara, but also get to support their beloved national teams. Thus, despite being miles away from home, a cricket fan’s bond and love for his/her motherland continues to grow.

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Joseph O'Neill, author of Netherland, with his cricket bat

Cricket in New York is more than just entertainment for the fans. The game epitomizes the very essence of this great city, by uniting cricket lovers from the world over. Like most New Yorkers, cricketers in this city have learned to overlook racial and ethnic differences, in an attempt to forge a bond with those who share their passion for the game far away from “home.” In New York, unlike most other cities in the world, it is therefore commonplace to see an Indian and a Pakistani, in the same team, hugging each other, or giving “high-fives” after hitting a boundary or taking a wicket.

In his novel, Netherland, Joseph O’Neill expresses this sentiment by mentioning how cricket was introduced to Papa New Guinea’s Trobriand Island in a bid to reduce the civil violence and killing. The game, with its rules and umpires, was “a crash course in democracy” making the islanders respect those they played with, despite being their enemies. Cricket in New York similarly promotes tolerance and develops relationships by providing conflicting groups such as Hindus and Muslims something in common. In June 2009, the NYPD even organized a cricket competition to strengthen its relationship with the city’s immigrant communities.

The Cricket Fields in Our Five Boroughs

Cricket in the Parks

Many of New York City's immigrants love the game of cricket; unfortunately, there are only fourteen parks they can play cricket in, despite having over 1700 parks, playgrounds, and recreation facilities scattered in the five boroughs. Immigrants from South Africa, Guyana, Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh rallied for a bigger cricket field and their wishes came true. With the help of “Parks for All New Yorkers: Immigrants, Culture and New York City Parks,” by New Yorkers for Parks, a nonprofit advocacy group, the immigrants pleaded to Adrian Benepe, commissioner for the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation and got their plans approved. In 2003, City Parks & Recreation funded and built New York’s first cricket field - in Brooklyn’s Spring Creek Park.

The cricket patterns, however, are hard to explain as no one can predict if future generations will play cricket, as it has yet to become a sport played in schools. Mohammed Iqbal, 16, a senior at Midwood High School in Brooklyn, said he had played cricket in Lahore, Pakistan, before moving to the United States.“People don’t play it here and don’t know the rules of the game. If you want to play it, you have to make sure you’re playing cricket with another immigrant – someone who understands you” he said.

The New York City Police Department established a cricket competition for young men in 2009 - with 10 teams and 170 players this year. A cricket match can last as long as five days and still end in a tie. However, the Police Department has adopted a shorter form of the game, called Twenty20 — in this form, a match lasts around three hours. The league’s matches are played at Spring Creek Park in Brooklyn and Kissena Park in Queens.

Cricket in City High Schools

Around twenty percent of New York City’s population originates from a nation that plays cricket so it’s only reasonable that cricket is joining sports such as basketball and football in terms of popularity. More recently, in the past two to three years, cricket has become a sport that many high schools are starting to compete in; particularly in Queens, where most immigrants from cricket playing nations go once they arrive in America.


If you look at this map closely you'll notice that that the marked locations represent high schools in Queens that have active cricket teams. PSAL (Public School Athletic League), due to the high demand, has added cricket as a sport that schools can participate in. There are currently around 7 active teams in Queens -- all basically in the same geographical area. Why are all the cricket playing schools so geographically close?

When immigrants come to the city, they usually tend to go to areas where they know people of their nationality already reside. You will notice that all the cricket-playing high schools are in areas such as Long Island City, Richmond Hill/ Ozone Park, and Bellerose; areas where immigrants from cricket-playing countries are dominantly present. This is not to say that only cricket-playing nations are represented in the teams that are formed. Many students from other ethnicities join in the fun because of cricket's similarities to baseball. The formations of these cricket teams in High Schools has also caused a decline in crime rate in these areas because youths are kept occupied playing cricket.

Immigrants play sports that they're already familiar with for two reasons: to meet other immigrants who share a similar passion and to keep from getting homesick. These teams are sometimes even considered to be a "support group" for the immigrants who come here and have no one else to turn to. Cricket is a great way to meet new people because to play a sport you don't need to speak the same language or have the same customs; all you need is the spirit to play and of course the strength to carry the, in my opinion, very heavy bat.

In Ferry Point Park

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Manhattan, as seen from Ferry Point Park.
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A view across the water, towards Queens, from Ferry Point Park.

With the Whitestone Bridge looming in the background, Ferry Point Park is a scenic park home to two cricket pitches. These two pitches are part of a single cricket field, making Ferry Point Park one of only fourteen public parks run by the New York City government with cricket facilities. While these facilities are far from ideal, they are better than nothing. The quality of the playing field is very low at Ferry Point Park due to a lack of care in the maintenance of the land dedicated for cricket play. In speaking with players from around the city who compete at Ferry Point Park, a reporter learned that the difficulties of playing at Ferry Point Park (and at most parks around the city) stems from the unpredictability of where the ball will go upon making contact with the uneven land at Ferry Point Park.

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Cricket players at Ferry Point park.
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The cricket pitches at Ferry Point Park from afar; the base of the Whitestone Bridge can be seen in this picture.

An aerial view of the cricket pitches at Ferry Point Park.

In Kissena Park

An Interview with one of the cricket players in Kissena Park reveals that the game is more than just a leisure activity for the immigrants and their children.

Kissena Park is located in Flushing, Queens where many immigrants from Afghanistan, India, and Pakistan reside. The children of these immigrant families attend public schools and avidly participate in popular “American" sports (such as basketball, football and softball); however, many of them also have a passion for a sport that is much less recognized by the most Americans - cricket. Kissena Park is one site in NYC where these children participate in the game.

Casual Game of Cricket at Kissena Park

The intersection between Kissena Boulevard and Rose Avenue hosts 4 fan-shaped baseball fields. Although the fields are often occupied by baseball players, cricket also makes its way here. Children and adults of South Asian heritage, many belonging to the Indian Sikh community, take part in friendly, yet excitingly competitive games that capture the attention of those who pass by.

Siddhartha Kumar is an immigrant from India, where he started playing cricket from a young age. He now attends CUNY City College, where he is part of the Cricket Club. An active member of the club, he organizes matches, looks for potential fields to play cricket, and promotes the sport around campus.

In Kumar's words, "cricket is a religion" in his hometown. In India, children learn to play as soon as they are physically able to handle the sport, and continue to play throughout their life. Gym classes are focused on cricket, but students do not hesitate to take the game outside of the scope of school. The game is often played in backyards.

Immigrants who come from countries where cricket is an essential part of everyday life, do not shed their love for the sport after they come to the U.S. Thus, the game is brought to sites such as Kissena Park, even though its fields are not ideal for playing - the ground is too uneven. However, to accommodate this, the game gets modified - for example, there is no pitcher.

However, alterations do not make the game any less enjoyable. Kumar reveals that the teammates make cricket a pleasure. Close collaboration of team members of Indian, Pakistani, Trinidadian and West Indian descent helps assimilate immigrants as they make friends of similar cultures. Whenever a professional cricket game takes place overseas, or whenever there is an exciting local tournament, cricket becomes the main topic of discussion for immigrant cricket players and fans.

When asked if he thinks cricket will one day become a big part of American culture, Kumar's answer is a confident "Yes! I think so! I hope so!" Whether cricket will gain national fame is uncertain at this point. However, it is evident that cricket serves a fundamental function for immigrant players of New York.


One of our assigned readings in our IDC class, this semester, was Joseph O'Neill's Netherland. This national bestseller focuses on the issues of immigration and different social classes in New York City. Hans van den Broek, a wealthy, white Dutch immigrant is introduced to the “other half” of New York through his eccentric friendship with a Trinidadian.

When we are introduced to the main character he is having personal problems with his wife who decides to go back to England. He is left alone in NYC where he doesn’t have any true friends, nor people to spend time with. However, his encounter with Chuck Ramkissoon (the Trinidadian) opens him the door to the “underground” world of cricket. Hans, familiar with the cricket rules, played it in his country with rich white males. It was a bit of a shock for him at first to see people from different countries, and social classes to come together and play this game in NYC. He also discovered that those immigrants had such a great urge to play the sport that the condition of the field, many times altered form the actual cricket field, didn’t matter. People just wanted to get together and forget about their everyday troubles. During the game there was racism, prejudgment, a taxi driver or a white-collar were equal.

We can also say that playing cricket and befriending Chuck allowed Hans to discover the City he hadn’t known before. Working in Times Square and living in Hotel Chelsea, limited Hans’s understanding of the demographics in New York City. Through Chuck, Hans discovered Staten Island, with its cement cricket field, Brooklyn, with the Gowanus Canal, Reformed Protestant Dutch Church of Flatbush (with its historical gravestones) and many other interesting places around the city. His circle of friends changed as well; instead of colleagues from work, Hans became comrades with men from Pakistan, Bangladesh, etc.

I have decided to follow Hans’s expeditions around New York City and present some places that are mentioned in the book.

The Chelsea Hotel:

Reformed Protestant Dutch Church of Flatbush

the Gowanus Canal