Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Cricket Chirping in the US

Over the years I've really come to like cricket. I don't claim to understand the game anywhere near as well as I do, say, rugby, a game I played in South Africa and that I feel I have a pretty good grasp on both in terms of the play on the pitch and also understanding teams and the international game (especially from the the professional and international vantage point of South Africa). Cricket is extraordinarily complex, the scoring system is far from straightforward, and any game that can take five days to play (in its most traditional, purist version) inevitably has its share of nuances.

I am nonetheless skeptical of (though also pleased with) the attempts to bring the game to the United States. Ours is a country of sporting xenophobia. Americans don't understand cricket or rugby, and so tend to mock it, even though they are among the most played team sports in the world -- cricket is probably the second-most popular team sport across the globe behind soccer and rugby cannot be too far behind, though baseball and basketball also have a substantial global footprint. When these international sports -- and I include what most of the rest of the world calls football -- garners any attention on Sports Center, for example, the odds are good that the mention will be both fleeting and mocking. Cricket and rugby almost certainly will never make enormous strides in part because of this sporting xenophobia, and in part because rugby is too much like American football, cricket too akin to baseball.

Still, there are some signs that cricket may well at least enter the fringe in the United States. There is an active and growing cricket community at American colleges that hopes to grow the sport here. USA Cricket is active and is growing. Manny Ramirez even took a few swings from a bowler in an effort to promote DirecTV's new cricket coverage. And a new version of the game, 20-20, represents at least in part an effort to bring a faster-paced version of the game to American audiences (despite the unfortunate Mark Saranford connections).

I'll be happy if someday I can catch international test cricket on my cable. Cricket is a very difficult game to follow in the United States, and I'd be happier if I could just watch the occasional mach (and if I could catch rugby even more regularly).


Ronit said...

Cricket is not extraordinarily complex! I think it's easier to follow than baseball.

And, yeah, DirecTV has excellent coverage of international cricket, but I wish it was on cable or online.

http://www.cricinfo.com/ is a good site for following international cricket, and any Aussie or UK papers owned by Murdoch (including SMH and the Times of London) tend to have good coverage (Rupert is a huge cricket fan).

dcat said...

Ronit --
The game as played on the field is pretty straightforward, I'll grant you that. But the scoring in cricket is fairly complex because you have both runs and wickets, but also because, especially in five-day tests, you have the draw factor that takes priority over both. This all makes cricket a unique and remarkable game, but it also is tough for newcomers to grasp. I still can get confused by it, and while I am no expert, I have tried to get to know the sport pretty well.

Thanks for dropping in from Ephblog!