An ancient sport with a big international following and English origins is undergoing a quiet resurgence in the U.S. this summer.
Not soccer (or football, as it is known in other parts of the globe), although it fits that description too, and on a much bigger scale. No, we’re talking about cricket, the bat and ball sport hugely popular in large parts of the British commonwealth that Americans have long found baffling.
Cricket’s profile is growing in the U.S. thanks to the rising influence and size of the Indian (and to a lesser extent Caribbean) diaspora. It is an official high-school sport in New York City. ESPN, which estimates that there are as many as 30 million cricket fans in the U.S., actually aired an Indian Premier League match on live television earlier this year. It regularly streams matches online, and the audiences are solid.
What most people don’t know is that the sport has actually been played on American soil since Colonial days. Its fascinating history is outlined in Flannels on the Sward, History of Cricket in Americas, by first-time author, Connecticut-based Jayesh Patel.
Patel says there are records of cricket being played in America’s oldest cities—such as Philadelphia, Hartford, New York and Boston—as early as the 1700s. A predecessor sport, "wicket," gained a particularly large following in Connecticut. Fittingly, Bristol, where ESPN is headquartered, was home to one of the strongest teams.