Monday, 27 July 2009

Breaking America?

Several months ago (see my March 26th post), I was excited to read of a planned American Premier League (APL) Twenty20 tournament to be held in New York in October. That particular tournament is now unlikely to go ahead, but the US cricket association has, unlike the APL’s organisers, received backing from the ICC (cricket’s main governing body) and is now in search of suitable partnerships to bring about the event.

Watch this space (as ever!), but don’t hold your breath even if sponsors and broadcasters are found. As Mike Atherton explained in a particularly fine Times column back in April, cricket’s best chance to become the big American sport came in the mid-19th century, when it rivalled baseball for popularity with clubs in 22 states. Once the rules of baseball were formalised in 1857 and the game spread to the South in the 1860s' Civil War, however, it grew rapidly. In 1905, the Mills Commission – set up to ascertain baseball’s origins – established the myth that it was a purely American invention, rather than evolving from (English) rounders, and it has been the US national sport ever since.

Cricket, by contrast, was marginalised and kept alive primarily by English, Indian and West Indian expats. Businessmen such as Sir Allen Stanford have attempted to create a market, but there has been little or no success as yet. In Joseph O'Neill's novel, Netherland, the dodgy Trinidadian entrepreneur, Chuck Ramkissoon, dreams of staging an international tournament in New York, but it remains a dream or, in O'Neill's words, "a metaphor for the boundaries of American perception." It is no accident that the hero of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, often termed the great American novel, has a business connection with the man said to have fixed baseball's 1919 World Series.


  1. I was visiting New York in the summer last year and came across an impromptu game of cricket in Prospect Park in Brooklyn. The players were all ex-pat West Indian and Indians, but the (very) american crowds that had stopped to watch as they walked by were into it. I spent about 2 hours explaining the rules to those who were interested - and there were a lot of people interested.
    There was also this article in Sport Illustrated last year about the semi-professional leagues that are growing along the east coast.
    Given that people do appear to be interested in the game when they see it, the TV friendly beast that cricket has evolved into, and the large population of ex-pat advocates I wouldn't be surprised to see the game slowly take hold there. Just give it time.

  2. That book Netherland is the balls - you should have included an Amazon link. I bloody loved it!!