Baseball has long been considered America’s pastime. But another team sport played with a bat and ball is appearing in increasing evidence on playing fields in the United States. Cricket is an older, more universally popular sport, and its growth in the United States can be attributed in large part to the larger numbers of South Asians who have immigrated to this country.
Cricket can be traced back to 16th century England, where the first reference to the game was made in a 1598 court case, which spoke of a “creckett” match played in Guildford, Surrey in 1550. The first recorded match took place in Kent in 1646. As the game evolved into a competition of two 11-player, bat-and-ball teams arrayed against each other on a field, attempting to score runs through a series of innings, the sport’s popularity spread to many of England’s colonies, including Australia, New Zealand, the West Indies, South Africa and India.
As Indian immigration to the United States has grown — there are now about 2.81 million Americans of Indian ancestry — cricket clubs in the United States have proliferated. On a geographic basis, major cricket clubs are found throughout the country, but year-round competition is clustered in Florida, Texas and California due to the warmer weather found in those states.
Cricket is played by women as well as men, and there are now 12 women’s cricket clubs alone in the United States.
Cricket is also played at colleges and universities in the United States. In those venues, the ethnic diversity of the game’s players is on full display. And because students from cricket-passionate countries are in strong evidence on American campuses — Indians, for example, are now the second-largest foreign student group in the United States — there is an ample supply of collegiate participants and fans for the sport.
The large number of Indians studying at American colleges and universities translates into a highly educated community — 40 percent of Indians in the United States have a master’s degree, doctorate or other professional degree, five times the national average. That fact, in turn, contributes to the U.S. Census Bureau’s finding that Indian Americans have the highest household income of all ethnic groups in the United States.
The wealthier the household income, the more disposable income a family has to spend on leisure activities, including sporting events. And with Indian-American household income leading the nation, the exclamation “play ball” could someday be heard on playing fields devoted to cricket as often as those to baseball.
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