08 October 2006

"Nets tomorrow at 9am. I trust I shall see you there": cricket revival in USA?

An unexpected source, The Smithsonian magazine , describes the growing popularity of cricket in the USA. The author, Simon Worrall (one vowel away from a great cricketer's surname) includes a succinct historical summary with some interesting facts, eg that NYC Mayor Bloomberg in 2005 announced plans to build a $1.5m "pitch" in Queens.

Worrall also describes the spread of the game beyond its original bases in Philadelphia and New York, though IMO he underrates the influence of the West Coast, where British Empire/ Commonwealth expats in Hollywood such as Sir C Aubrey Smith ( who once appeared for England at cricket as well as in many movies such as the 1939 version of The Four Feathers ), Laurence Olivier and Boris Karloff raised the profile of the game and where, as Cricinfo reminds us, a match was televised in 1958. It was "Round the Corner" Smith (the soubriquet derived from his bowling runup, not from any propensity to unsporting behaviour) who set the tone for the Hollywood Cricket club which he founded in the 1930s and which still continues with, we are told, support from such latter day cricket fans as Mick Jagger.

For the un-, or insufficiently, initiated The Smithsonian website also has a companion piece "Cricket for Dummies" by Matthew Engel the editor of Wisden. His (or his sub-editor's) summary: "It's a lot like baseball. Except that it's profoundly different". This and much of what he goes on to say is generally OK, though by describing bowlers' "throws" he may be sowing the seeds for future controversies if cricket really does take hold in the USA.

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