Thursday, January 31, 2008

In the international spotlight...USA cricket:

To most people out there in the world today, thinking that the United States plays cricket may seem pretty foreign, but little do some people know that the USA has a rich and deep history in the game of cricket. It was as early as the year 1737 that the first game of cricket was played in the United States (in New York). Cricket was brought over mainly by British colonies looking to settle in North America.
The New York Weekly Post Boy reported a match between XI of London and XI of New York, played in New York in 1751 and won by the New Yorkers, the scores being 80 and 86 against 43 and 47. It appears most likely that both XIs were drawn from residents of New York, as it is difficult to believe that a touring group would cross the Atlantic for one match, or that the state of the game would encourage such a tour. The thought of difficulty was perhaps brought up by the fact that in those times it took a few weeks just to cross the Atlantic by oceanliner/boat, from London to New York, compared to around 6 to 8 hours flying on a jumbo jet.

In 1856 there were talks amongst several ardent cricketers of an England XII coming over for a tour. This was to be the 1st visit by an England XI to the United States. However in 1857 an industrial depression gripped the country and because of this the talks were temporarily put off. Eventually the doom and gloom of this depression lifted and on September 6th 1859 the 1st ever touring team of 12 professional cricketers to the USA met at the George Hotel in Liverpool gathered together to depart on a journey across the seas to experience the opportunity of their lifetime. On the 3rd, 4th and 5th October 1859 the 1st game was played and England scored 156 and dismissed the USA XII for 38 and 54, winning very comprehensively. It was said that during this time that cricket in the USA was perhaps more advanced than of today’s leading cricketing nation, Australia.

Some people might ask why cricket didn’t continue to flourish in the USA. There were several factors that put the fast growing popularity and development of cricket into a long and perhaps deep hibernation, and the main factor appeared to be the Civil War which started in 1861 and carried on for 4 years. It was during this period that the game of Baseball grew more in popularity. The Civil War was a long and taxing battle which took its toll on several resources, including materials to create and develop proper cricket gear and the ongoing maintenance of cricket pitches. It seemed far easier to chuck 4 bags on a patch of grass anywhere to mark any area to play baseball. When the USA emerged from the atrocities of the Civil War it appeared that Baseball was going to be a big hit and be well entrenched in American society. It was after this period that England began to concentrate on Australia as being the new exiting opportunity to play cricket (and also help the game to grow in awareness, popularity and development).

A highlight of cricket in the USA was in the year of 1893 when the Australian team came over to Philadelphia and played 2 games in the city. In the first match Philadelphia made the highest score made by an American team in first-class cricket, accumulating a massive 525 runs and putting the Australian Test team out twice. The Australians were walloped by an innings and 68 runs, which today would be unheard of, especially since the USA team of today is yet to be eligible to play test cricket, but someday if the same enthusiasm for the game returns to the days of the mid to late 1800s then the Americans will have every chance to fuel the drive to get to the top of world cricket.

The tour also saw Bart King, an excellent promising bowler for the Americans, marking his prominence for the first time. King, one of the world's greatest bowlers of his era, achieved easily the best performance of the tour when he took 7 for 13 against Sussex on a good wicket at Brighton. King bowled a ball which he called the `Angler' which was an in-swinger. It was said that if properly bowled, it would change direction sharply in the last 3 or 5 metres of its flight. King used this ball very rarely against the batsmen with superior skill, but he did it so successfully that from 1893 to 1912 he was one of the most feared bowlers in the world. King was undisputedly the finest cricketer produced in America, not only for his bowling in the Golden Age of American cricket, but also for his batting, and his personal characteristics made him to be easily cherished by his friends. This phenomenon of American cricket died in 1965.

The first “international” in cricket was the first match between the United States and Canada took place on the grounds of the St. George's Club of New York on 24 and 26 September, 1844. This game was played for $1,000 a side, which in those days was a great amount of money therefore it carried a sizeable significance to cricket in the USA and perhaps all of North America.

Cricket in the United States is played on turf wickets, on matting rolled over concrete, on matting stretched over grass which was uncut and unrolled. Whenever an enthusiast claims one, a cricket ground arises and momentarily the magic of bat and ball can hold sway. Most of all, American cricket owes its being to enthusiasts for whom the charm of the game can never die and who lose no time in their new surroundings in spreading the magnificent game that yes, indeed, is cricket.

The USA was admitted to “associate” membership of the ICC in 1965. The USA participated in the ICC Trophy from the first tournament in 1979 and from the mid 1980s the side's performances steadily improved. This was largely due to the increase in expats from the Caribbean and the subcontinent rather than products from American-born players. It was an issue (and personally I think still is) that became an increasing concern as the side pressed for more international recognition. For the development of cricket in the USA to truly go forward the major cricketing bodies in the country need to try and explore talent in the USA as much as possible and also thoroughly before they go to places like the West Indies, India, Pakistan etc just to develop them into players for the USA when they could explore for talent in their own backyard. It’s kind of like when you lose your favourite cricket ball in the big bushes playing the game in your backyard, if you have the patience and the determination to find it, there’s a good chance that it will definitly be found.

Note* This is my first article in my planned “in the international spotlight...” series. All articles will be posted here on my blog-site and at the moment I’m choosing countries at random, however I am influenced by the countries that I can see in my “Feedjit Live Tracker” that visit my blog-site. If you have any request for your country and I haven’t posted it yet please let me know and I’ll endeavour to post an article as soon as possible. At the moment I am planning on doing my “in the international spotlight...” articles once a week ( either on a Wednesday or Thursday NZST) as researching a cricketing nations history and development takes a considerable amount of time, as well as doing my other regular articles and monitoring/responding to any comments I receive on this blog-site.

Note** I am also planning an “in the national spotlight...” series in which I hand-pick a cricket club from each New Zealand Province once a week. I’m anticipating that I will start this within the next 2 weeks (by the 13th/14th Feb 2008 NZST at the latest). If you have a club that you would like me to comment on please post a comment on this blog-site. I have thought of doing an “international club cricket spotlight...” series but have decided I will only do this if I get requests for it. If it proves to be popular I will make it a regular item.

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