Cricket in the US: “Pride and Prejudice”, or in need of “Persuasion”?Peter McGlashan |
On my return to Bath, in England, one thing struck me.
It’s beauty and permanence.
When it comes to progress though, Bath is antiquated… an ancient relic of Georgian architecture and Roman history. It is a city where things take time to happen, very few people seem in a hurry, and not much changes from year to year. The place is like a snap shot of a bygone era 200 years ago, and if it were not for the bright red sightseeing buses doing laps every 15 minutes, you could be forgiven for thinking you were on the set of a Jane Austen novel.
Last year when I played for Bath I was fortunate enough to stay on Rivers Street, which is actually mentioned in Austens’ novel, “Persuasion”. To be living in a house built in the 1700s is rather surreal for a Kiwi, as our nation, in its current state, was only formed in the mid 1800s.
Leaving New Zealand, almost two weeks ago, my final destination was Bath, however I stopped to catch up with friends in Portland, Oregon on the way over. Portland is a beautiful city on the west coast of the United States, known as one of the greenest and most innovative cities in the country. Portland’s grid like layout and abundance of greenery in the city centre is a far cry from the concrete and cobbled, windy, narrow streets of Bath. While Bath prides itself on it’s history and heritage, Portland is host to one of the most innovative brands in the sports industry.
Nike, the global sporting giant, has it’s world headquarters based in Portland, and it was here I was visiting to catch up with some friends I worked with, on their cricket shoe project, a few years ago while at the University of Auckland.
Nike World HQ for sports buffs is like Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory for chocolate lovers.
In a word… Heaven.
177 acres of sporting innovation and excellence, employing 6000 people, the Nike campus is a sight to behold and no expense is spared, with a full size running track, one artificial and two grass football fields, and an Olympic sized swimming pool onsite, not to mention a six-acre man-made lake. The lake seems to be the only thing built without the athlete in mind. Everything else oozes performance.
So it is fair to say that when a mate and I pulled out our cricket gear and started having throw downs on the Ronaldo field (all facilities are named after famous Nike Athletes), a few eyes were raised and heads turned. It was not long before curious bystanders became enthusiastic participants, and that age-old problem of how to explain cricket to ignorant inquirers reared its ugly head.
I find it reasonably easy now, after having to explain the game to Americans at conferences abroad, but it takes some practice. Maybe soon the practice will begin to pay off.
With rumours of an American Premier League rife, it may be time for America to jump on board the Twenty 20 express and embrace the sport again.
Yes, you heard right, I said again.
You may be surprised to hear that the USA and Canada played in the first international cricket match, in New York, back in 1844. Back then; 150 years ago, the game had strong support with 20,000 spectators and the equivalent of $1.5million in today’s money placed in bets. Since then, cricket has fallen behind baseball as the bat and ball game of choice for statistics-mad North Americans, keen for a few hours entertainment.
Maybe Twenty20 can change that.
Cricket is evolving so rapidly at the moment that it is difficult to predict where the sport will be in 150 years, but if it continues to adapt and move with current trends, it will be a truly global game enjoyed by the majority of the world’s population.
The question is, how much can the game change?
Much like Bath, the sport prides itself on its heritage and traditions. Baths appearance, much like crickets appearance, is controlled by a select body of people entrusted with the city and games best interests.
Bath’s beauty is set in stone.
Cricket’s beauty is more complex.
Both are stunning, and both show signs of change.
And change is always good… isn’t it?