Cricket went everywhere with the British Empire
Cricket originated in 16th-century England but traveled with the British and took root everywhere they went. In America, references archived from 1709 attest to the early presence of Cricket in this country. A notable instance appears in a New York newspaper from 1739, featuring an advertisement seeking cricket players, and the inaugural cricket competition in the Americas unfolded in 1751 in Manhattan.
Interestingly, the U.S. and Canada hold the distinction of the oldest international cricket rivalry, predating even the renowned Ashes between England and Australia. This historic rivalry commenced in 1844, though today, it’s no longer the flashiest rivalry of cricket. That distinction goes to India and Pakistan.
Ivy-league style cricket
Established in 1881, The Intercollegiate Cricket Association came into being through the collaboration of the University of Pennsylvania, Harvard College, Haverford College, Princeton College (then College of New Jersey), and Columbia College. Cornell University later became a member of this association. The Intercollegiate Cricket Association remained in existence for 44 years, spanning from 1881 to 1924.
Philadelphia has been the center of North American cricket and continues to hold that status today. In 1833, Haverford College established a cricket team, widely acknowledged as the inaugural cricket club exclusively composed of Americans.
The Philadelphia Cricket Club, founded in 1854, is the oldest cricket club in the US, while the cricket team was initially disbanded in 1924 but it was later revived in 1998. The club is now one of the hosts of the annual Philadelphia International Cricket Festival.
British cricket dumped after American independence
Despite being introduced so early in the country’s history, Cricket was never really taken up by the masses in the U.S. After America declared independence, Cricket was seen as a colonial symbol. Just as tea was dumped at the onset of the American Revolution, other British imports like Cricket fell out of favor.
Though Cricket continued to be played in a limited way for decades after the British left, it never became a mainstream sport in the US. Another factor in the decline of interest in this colonial sport was when the ICC (Imperial Cricket Conference), established in 1909, only welcomed Commonwealth nations. It excluded the U.S. from engaging in the sport at its premier level.
Fast forward to the current times. Cricket is having a revival in the US, thanks in part to the diaspora from the subcontinent!
A Revival in America
In January 2019, USA Cricket was approved as a new associate member of the (new) ICC (International Cricket Council), and USA Cricket vigorously promoted the sport in the U.S. In 2023, they launched Major League Cricket (MLC), with six teams modeled on India’s incredibly popular IPL (Indian Premier League). Teams like the Los Angeles Knight Riders, Mumbai Indians New York, and Texas Super Kings battled it out for the league title last summer. Fans of MLC will see the likes of Nicholas Pooran, Rashid Khan, Haris Rauf, Trent Boult, and other big names in international cricket participating on American soil.
This star-studded launch and deep investment in Cricket fields and venues are drawing more people to the sport. According to USA Cricket, in 2023, over 200,000 people will play Cricket in the U.S. competitively across 400 local leagues.
Three major US cities – Dallas, Miami, and New York – will host matches during the Men’s T20 Cricket World Cup in 2024, the next major step for Cricket in America.
As cricket fans settle in to watch the ICC Men’s World Cup in India (even if the matches start at 1:30 AM PST), thanks to MLC, fans can look forward to a burgeoning Cricket scene here in America.
I’m supporting the San Francisco Unicorns this year. What about you?