The role of cricket in our past and future

Thursday, September 13, 2001


Today, inquiring whether any Americans play elite international cricket is like asking if any Pakistanis play professional major-league baseball.

Since the United States became a member of the International Cricket Conference in 1960, not a single player born on American soil has made the national team.

One reason the game suffers here is that most Americans find cricket too time-consuming. Modern cricket is played in a day; international or, "test," cricket matches last five days.

But there was a time when cricket was an integral part of the American experience.

The earliest known game of cricket on land that would eventually become the United States took place on a Virginia tobacco plantation in 1709, according to Amar Singh, secretary of the C.C. Morris Cricket Library at Haverford University outside of Philadelphia.

One of George Washington's soldiers wrote in his diary of playing a game of "wickets" in 1778 at Valley Forge.

Founding father Benjamin Franklin didn't play the game, but he admired it.

During the debates at the Continental Congress over what to call the chief executive, Franklin pressed for the term "president," after the head of a cricket club, Singh said.

And cricket is the second-oldest intercollegiate sport in this country. (The first was a crew race between Harvard and Yale.)

Though mill workers from Britain played in the Philadelphia area, the game was largely for the leisure class since it can take days to play and was expensive to keep a true cricket ground.

"Americans wanted a game of their own. Cricket represented an imperial, colonial kind of game," Singh said.

"The British didn't do themselves any favors -- they made it difficult for Americans to join. They had very snooty attitudes."

Cricket aficionados know their sport won't take wing domestically until homegrown Americans pick it up. And that starts with youngsters, which is why the USACA has started a program with eight schools in the Los Angeles area to teach cricket as part of physical education.

Hope lingers in the American ability to amalgamate new things.

"America has a good track record of adopting other cultures and ideas," says Chris Sandford, a British writer who lives in Seattle.

"I think it might one day get a toehold."


P-I reporter Kristin Dizon can be reached at 206-448-8118 or