Cricket’s American Dream

23 05 2010

New Zealand played Sri Lanka last night in the first of two 20/20 internationals in Lauderhill. If you are a person of a cricketing background you would be forgiven for asking  something along the lines of, “Where is that in New Zealand?” No doubt making the assumption that, being a game between two senior test playing nations, it was being played at some far flung Kiwi ground.

The more astute (or indeed simply perhaps anyone who has been to Florida) would by now have realised that it is in the good old US of A. Last nights match was the first of a two game series and was the first ever senior international contest played on US soil. Whilst in many ways the Compulsive Hooker is as big an exponent of developing the game worldwide, we fear what might happen to the game if the Americans were to get hold of it. In this nightmare (for a cricketing purist) scenario we can envisage several things that might change:

  • 20/20 cricket would likely still be too long for the American attention span, leading to four 5 over innings per side.
  • Fielders wearing a baseball style catching glove.
  • Probably even more advertising than the IPL.
  • Substitutions of players being allowed.
  • The death of the all rounder as players specialise even more. The same set of batsman would ‘hit’ in each innings.
  • The amount of straightening at the elbow a bowler is permitted being raised from 15 degrees to 30, effectively legalising throwing….
  • Etc.
  • Etc.

Joking aside, the ICC would never permit most of these to happen; yet the American’s have a history of ignoring world governing bodies and setting up their own variants of international games. Four quarters in a football match (sorry, soccer match) anyone?

Above all though we simply do not see Americans taking to the sport. Any game played there will likely garner a small crowd due to the huge diversity of different nationalities resident there; some of which should, by statistical chance come from a cricket loving country. However, to really take off, the game must tap into the properly ‘American’ demographic and with baseball being so popular we are far from alone in thinking these current efforts will end in defeat for the ICC and USA Cricket.

For more on this read Jenni Rutherfords excellent article on Cricinfo here. For an American take on the game, here are two articles (here and here) from this weekend’s Miami Herald which provide a small bit of amusement. Not least for differences in our mutual language – apparently ‘shag’ has a different meaning over there – and inevitable misuse of cricketing terms.

*********

Incidentally New Zealand won convincingly with Sri Lanka folding to 92 all out in pursuit of 121 to win in what was clearly a game which neither side particularly cared about. Dan Vettori went as far as to say, “We have to treat this with respect. This is an international game” which to us suggests that if he had to remind himself and his team of this salient point, it clearly didn’t mean anything at all.

This raises a much larger issue which we will only touch on in this article as it really deserves a much closer look. Essentially cricket is already suffering from a surfeit of matches worldwide with meaningless one day tournaments two a penny. If America as a cricketing market was to take off this would only increase, which in turn would put major pressure on the existing senior cricketing nations to play regular matches there. Presumably this would also mean limited overs cricket (unless the Americans showed unexpectedly long attention spans) which in turn would negatively impact on test cricket’s status worldwide.

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