Cricket in the US: “Pride and Prejudice”, or in need of “Persuasion”?

Bath Panorama

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?

My Zimbio
KudoSurf Me!


\”And change is always good… isn\’t it?\”


International cricket looks like it is going to take a backseat to all this T20 rubbish in the near future. That is absolutely not good!!!

Comment by Mark | 12:00am BST 1 May 2009

Very jealous, wish I was there.

Comment by Paz | 12:00am BST 2 May 2009

I think you might be right Peter – I live in the States, and it seems to me that Twenty20 is close enough to baseball, in terms of time and razzamatazz (and even some of the terminology), to have a shot at taking off over here.

Comment by Dave Wilson | 12:00am BST 3 May 2009

Sounds like a fantastic trip. I have to say, I don’t think cricket will ever be popular in the states. The sport’s so difficult to sell to the uninitiated, and then there’s the fact that American’s have for the past 100 odd years seen it as a game for upper-class English toffs, and dismissed it out of hand.

Comment by Ben | 12:00am BST 3 May 2009

“And change is always good… isn’t it?”

An interesting question you’ve posed there and obviously inviting comment from the two opposing views on this matter. I know you see yourself as an innovator in terms of stroke making and even cricket equipment, but is there anything in the game that you see as sacrosanct and unquestionable?

Do you see people promoting the game of 20:20 to new audiences as iconoclasts tearing away the dusty coverings of cricket convention?

Comment by Heef | 12:00am BST 4 May 2009

The thing about this is the often overlooked US Pro Cricket.

T20 has been played professionally in the US before and with International players(players such as Colin Miller, Ajay Jadeja, Daren Ganga, Mervyn Dillon etc took part).

It only lasted a season (2004) but the idea of pro T20 in the US is not a new one.

There was not a gap in cricket between hundreds of years ago to now.

US Pro Cricket may be forgotten but it existed and its legacy should not be ignored.

Comment by Goughy | 12:00am BST 5 May 2009

Its only through T20 can cricket reach out to the US people. At the moment, it is the expatriates thats keeping the game alive there. The average American has absolutely no clue about cricket and its intricacies. They only know of it as an exaggerated version of baseball and something not worth spending 5 full days over. Or even one-day for an ODI for that matter. I am afraid thats going to stay the case for decades to come. If I remember right, they took part on the ICC champions trophy in 2004 and their captain was Clayton lmbert, a 40 something former west indian! Rest of the team were a motley bunch of journeymen expats. Still there’s hope, courtesy 2020.

Comment by Sandy_bangalore | 12:00am BST 10 May 2009

Pete, Nice read. But my views of US cricket differ being in the US, Cricket never will be a success in USA. Imagine a global sport like football is less successful, this after USA hosting a World cup and the USA team is among the top twenty teams of the World. The sports market is run by TV channels in the US and no network would be willing to give up their prime time baseball/football/basketball for a game that is a relative unknown.

Most americans cannot think cricket beyond” it’s like baseball except that they use a flat bat and the ball pitches before it reaches the batter”. ICC can instead pump in the dollars to improve cricket in countries like West Indies, New Zealand etc. where the game is losing it’s popularity and can help revive the fortunes of those teams. We dont want China and America to help us with cricket.

Comment by Ganesh | 12:00am BST 11 May 2009

Nice read Peter…
I am a regular reader of blogs and really enjoy readin it.. I had a smile on my face when you said ” find it reasonably easy now, after having to explain the game to Americans at conferences abroad”.. I have been living in Canada for last 6 years and everytime we play Cricket, there will always be some curious bystanders and I have to explain Cricket…Its always hard to explain Cricket who never played it before

Comment by Rahul Mittal | 12:00am BST 13 May 2009

Thanks to all of you for your comments, I’ve just popped up another article which you may be interested in.
Heef- you raise some good questions. Is there anything I hold sacrosanct? Hmm, I don’t know, I’d like to say no but with the proviso that I don’t want it to become another sport! It’s something that with hindsight, we will all be experts on if the powers that be loosen their grip on the game and change too much. The utterings of “I told you so” will echo throughout Cricket pavilions across the world.
Iconoclasts may be a bit strong, preachers possibly, or visionaries perhaps.
Ganesh- you make a very valid point about the power of the TV Networks in the US. It is difficult to see cricket getting an angle with the big 4 of American Football, Basketball, Baseball and Ice Hockey dominating air time. Cricket would be wrestling with Lacrosse, Soccer, Spelling Bees and Cheerleading if it tried to poke its nose in although the association with ESPN may have some leverage.
Sorry for the wait since my last Blog. Has been busy time with limited Net Access. Am excited bout doing regular pieces during T20 world cup preparations starting in the coming weeks.
Watch this space…

Comment by Peter McGlashan | 12:00am BST 13 May 2009

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