A cricket World Cup is coming to NYC’s suburbs, where the sport thrives among immigrant communities

EAST MEADOW, N.Y. (AP) — A towering 34,000-seat stadium and a neatly manicured field rises from soft Kentucky grass in a suburban New York park that will host one of the world’s best cricket tournaments next month.

But on a recent Saturday morning, across from Eisenhower Park on Long Island, budding young cricketers were already busy batting, bowling and fielding on a makeshift field.

The T20 World Cup will be the first major International cricket competition In the United States, but the centuries-old English game has been thriving in the remote corners of metro New York for years, fueled by steady waves of immigration from South Asia and the Caribbean. Every spring, parks from the Bronx and Queens to Long Island and New Jersey come alive with recreational leagues hosting weekend contests.

American cricket organizers hope the June competition will take the sport’s popularity to the next level, providing the kind of enduring support across generations and cultures that soccer enjoyed when the United States hosted the first soccer World Cup in 1994. On Wednesday, the hostility Retired Olympian Usain Bolt, honorary ambassador for the T20 World Cup, visited the nearly completed Eisenhower Stadium, alongside members of the US cricket team and former New York football and basketball greats.

Parmanand Sarju, founder of the Long Island Youth Cricket Academy which hosted Saturday’s practice, said he was “thrilled” to see the new pitch rising above the ballpark where his youth academy started, a sign of how far things have come.

“When we started over a decade ago, there was no understanding of cricket, at least at the youth level,” said the Mirrick resident, who set up the academy to teach his two American-born children the sport he grew up in Guyana. In South America. “Now they are building a stadium here.”

The sport originally took root in the outer boroughs of New York City, but gradually spread as immigrant families, like previous generations, moved to the suburbs, transforming communities, said Ahmed Chauhan, a Pakistani national and chief of the New York Police Department. The cricket club, which also plays at Eisenhower as part of a statewide league with about 70 teams.

He said the World Cup is a “historic moment.”

Cricket is the second most watched sport in the world after soccer — Indian star Virat Kohli has 268 million Instagram followers — but it is played by only more than 200,000 Americans nationwide across more than 400 domestic leagues, according to USA Cricket, which oversees On the men’s national cricket team.

Major League Cricket Launched last year In the United States with six professional T20 teams, including the New York team, which is currently playing some matches at a Dallas-area stadium that also hosts World Cup matches.

Vino Pesicki, president of the US Cricket Association, believes the T20 World Cup – the first time the United States has competed in the tournament – will mark a turning point.

He pointed out that this sport is among the sports scheduled for the 2028 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, its first appearance in the Games in more than a century. The International Cricket Council, the sport’s governing body, has also committed to growing the American market.

“Cricket is often seen as an expatriate sport, but things will look very different in the next 10-20 years,” Pesek said. “The Americans will definitely change their mentality and approach regarding the development of cricket.”

Both the Los Angeles Games and the upcoming World Cup, co-hosted by the United States and the West Indies, will feature a modernized version of the game known as “Twenty20” that lasts about three hours and is highlighted by aggressive batsmen swinging away like “sixes.” They are considered more approachable to casual fans than traditional formats, which can last from one to five days when hitters typically take a more cautious approach. Twenty20 is the format used in the Indian Premier League which is very popular.

Eisenhower Park will host half of the matches played in the United States, including the headliners Clash of Cricket Titans Pakistan and India on June 9.

The other matches in the 55-match tournament with the participation of 20 countries, which begins on June 1, will be held on current stations. Cricket stadiums in Texas and Florida. Subsequent rounds will be held in Antigua, Trinidad and other Caribbean countries, with the final being held in Barbados on June 29.

Cricket has a long history in the United States and New York in particular.

The sport was played by American troops during the Revolutionary War, and the first international match was held in Manhattan between the St. George’s Cricket Club and the City Cricket Club. Canada In 1844, according to Stephen Holroyd, a Philadelphia-area cricket historian.

Even in 1855, he said, New York newspapers still devoted more coverage to cricket than to baseball, but the sport remained stubbornly isolated, with only British cricket clubs stunting its growth as baseball was taking off.

By the end of World War I, cricket had largely disappeared – until immigrants from India and other former British colonies helped revive it almost half a century later.

Anubhav Chopra, one of the founders of the Long Island Premier League, a roughly 15-year-old men’s league that plays at another local park, is among More than 700,000 Indian Americans in the New York City area – by far the largest community of its kind in the country.

The Babylon resident has never attended a professional cricket match, but he has tried to share his love of the game he played while growing up in New Delhi with his three American children, including his 9-year-old son who is taking cricket lessons.

Chopra has bought tickets for all nine Eisenhower matches and is taking his wife, children and grandparents to the June 3 match between Sri Lanka and South Africa.

“For me, cricket is life,” he said. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

The dense network of metal bars and wooden planks that make up Eisenhower Stadium will collapse soon after the Cup matches end, but the cricket field will remain, except for the rectangular surface in the middle known as the infield.

What’s left sets a “world-class” foundation for local cricket teams — and perhaps a future home for a professional team, Nassau County Executive Bruce Blackman said.


Follow Philippe Marcelo at twitter.com/philmarcelo.

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