Feature Article - October 2009
Find a printable version here

At the Forefront of Fun

Up-and-Coming Sports to Expand Your Offerings

By Jessica Royer Ocken


Cricket

What is it? Cricket is "just like baseball but different," said John L. Aaron, executive secretary for USA Cricket, with a laugh. A cricket team has nine fielders, but their positions are less fixed than baseball's defensive positions because in cricket, the batter can score in 360 degrees, Aaron explained. There's a wicket keeper, not a catcher, and cricket bowlers (pitchers) often bounce the 5-ounce leather (with a cork center) cricket ball off the pitch before it reaches the batter. Fielders don't wear gloves—only the batter does, to protect the fingers.

The games are also scored differently, as two players have to interact to score a run in cricket, and the cricket batter keeps batting until he or she is out—even if he smacks the ball out of the park (which earns a whopping six runs!), he can come back and continue batting. "Not to belittle baseball, but there's more of a chess game in cricket," said Aaron. "The strategy is to see how other players play, and it becomes a mind game between the two teams."

Who will love it? Anyone intrigued by baseball may enjoy applying those skills to a new game, and there are special cricket kits made just for kids, so even Little Leaguers can give it a try. "People who come from cricket-playing countries" are also usually big fans of the sport who could be eager to get organized games going in their new homes, Aaron said. There are more than 150 cricket-playing countries around the world, including Great Britain, Australia, India, South Africa, and Argentina. Current cricket hubs in the United States include New York, New Jersey, Florida, California, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, and Atlanta, Aaron noted.

Essentials for getting started? Cricket equipment is also a little different than that used for baseball. Bats are about the same length, but they're wider and flat on one side. Cricket balls are of course key to playing the game, and you'll also need stumps, which form the wickets at each end of the pitch. Aaron again suggests the plastic kits, which are perfect for kids, and can even be used by adults to practice indoors. In terms of space, "indoors for kids 11 and under a regular basketball court size works," Aaron said. "Outdoors is lots more ground…a baseball-size area is more than adequate."

Story of success: The first American College Cricket championship was held this past March in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where Central Broward Regional Park includes the only cricket stadium in the United States. (However, due to cost considerations the competition was held outside the stadium on one of the park's other cricket pitches, the New York Times reported.) About 60 players from five colleges competed, with Montgomery College from Maryland taking top honors.

Events like this are intended to help bring organization and recognition—perhaps eventually by the NCAA—to college-level cricket, but cricket for all ages is starting to get its American act together. Cricket is the latest sport added to the roster of games organized by the New York Police Department to build relationships with immigrant communities. YMCAs or park districts interested in starting a cricket program should contact the USA Cricket Association, suggested Aaron. "They can put the organization in touch with a local coach or local club who might want to lend their expertise to get a program started."

Resources? The USA Cricket Association can be found online at www.usaca.org, and American College Cricket has a page on Facebook. Aaron also recommends online "Cricket 101" tutorials like the one found at vimeo.com/5456018. Also, www.cs.purdue.edu/homes/hosking/cricket/explanation.htm and www.cricket-rules.com offer good explanations of cricket basics.