It’s the second-largest professional sport in the world, and it’s nipping at soccer’s heels in popularity. And many people in the U.S. don’t know what it is or how to play it. In fact, it’s safe to say that most people have never even seen it played, much less realize the U.S. has a national team for it. But while it may be relatively unknown in the U.S., cricket is one of the most popular sports in the world. In fact, ex-pats of countries where cricket is played often struggle to find places to play after moving to the U.S.
The result is predictable: people who want to play a sport will find a way to play. Cricket players have been moving into areas of parks and setting up games. And as a result, parks and recreation departments, particularly in larger cities, have begun to set aside land for, and in many cases, designate, facilities for cricket players.
The New York City Department of Parks & Recreation is one of these. NYC keeps a website that lists suitable for cricket, including Van Cortland Park in the northwest Bronx, which has 12 fields. Even Manhattan has a cricket-ready field at Randall’s Island Park, between East Harlem, the South Bronx and Astoria, Queens. Neighboring Franklin Township in Somerset County, New Jersey recently approved plans to build a park, including two cricket fields, on part of a 108-acre tract of land the township purchased as open space in 1999. According to MyCentralJersey.com, cricket is becoming increasingly popular in Central Jersey because of the influx of South Asian immigrants, particularly those from India. The region is home to a Central Jersey league with 96 teams that include many first- and second-generation citizens playing for U.S. national teams.
To find cricket-specific fields (not just multi-purpose fields that are cricket-friendly), however, players Florida is one place to go. Evans Park in Seffner, near Tampa, has fields that are set up for cricket. Period. According to the Tampa Tribune, the new fields are home to the Tampa Cricket League, which presently has 22 teams and about 340 players.
It’s worth noting that the Hillsborough County Commissioner told the Tampa Tribune that when foreign business and industry chiefs – often from India, where the sport is wildly popular — inquire about relocating to Hillsborough County, they tend to ask about recreational facilities in the region, and cricket often comes up. As a result, the cricket fields and the leagues become a selling point for the area.
Florida is also home to the only International Cricket Council-certified cricket stadium. The stadium at Central Broward Regional Park in Fort Lauderdale, which opened in 2008, hosted the first international cricket competition on American soil, a two-match Twenty20 series between New Zealand and Sri Lanka, in May 2010.
Nationally, cricket is governed by the United States of America Cricket Association. Its international governing body is the International Cricket Council. Cricket field rules and dimensions can be found in the ICC’s rule book, which is downloadable at this link.
Cricket is not an Olympic sport – yet. This year, it lobbied for inclusion in the 2020 Games and failed, but now that the IOC has agreed to abolish the cap of 28 sports for the Summer Games, there will be room for more sports on a forward-going basis.
Given the growth of cricket – it’s still a niche sport, but as an international population continues to blend into the U.S., that too will change in a big way – we can anticipate more requests for cricket fields. The dimensions are already found in Sports Fields: A Construction & Maintenance Manual. And maybe we’ll start seeing some cricket fields in the awards program in years to come.