Cricket gets serious in the US again

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Florida (US), Mar.25 (ANI): The game of cricket is getting serious attention again in the United States these days, more than a century after it first made its presence felt in the region.

Players taking part in the recently held American College Spring Break Cricket Championship in Florida feel they have brought the sport one step closer into the American mainstream.

Though cricket counts its fans by the billion worldwide, the sport does not register a pulse in the United States.

Of the five teams in attendance at this experimental event last weekend - Montgomery, from Maryland; Boston University; Carnegie Mellon, from Pittsburgh; the University of South Florida and the University of Miami, none have club team status, and the sport is not officially recognized by the N.C.A.A.

"This is an opportunity for us to really show athletic directors at a Division I level that cricket matters, cricket is a big sport and cricket has a marketing capability in this country," the New York Times quoted Sumantro Das, an all-rounder and junior at Boston University, as saying.

Nearly 60 players drove or flew at their own expense to the lush cricket pitches of Central Broward Regional Park and played Twenty20, a version of cricket in which many stuffy traditions are left behind and matches are completed in about three hours instead of taking up to five days.

The only custom-built cricket stadium in the United States stands in this park, but securing the 5,000-seat facility was far too rich a luxury for the tournament's shoestring budget.

Competing on the park's manicured fields was already an upgrade over the converted soccer fields and tennis courts the players were used to.

Lloyd Jodah, the founder and president of American College Cricket, said the idea for the college tournament came to him last year as he campaigned to have cricket included in the Olympics.

Standing on Wall Street with a cricket bat in one hand and petitions in the other, Jodah, 50, an immigrant from Guyana who works selling health club memberships, met Kalpesh Patel, a Jamaican business student from the University of Miami.

Once Jodah heard how difficult it was for college cricketers to find regular games, he began toying with the idea of a nation-wide organization for collegiate clubs and founded American College Cricket. He made a group on Facebook as a way to reach out to players.

Jodah and Nino DiLoreto, 62, a former soccer player from Abruzzi, Italy, spent many evenings tracking down college cricket players, and the group swelled to more than 500 members.

At the Boston University Cricket Club, expenses for the trip became the subject of six- and seven-hour meetings. After much deliberation, and financial help from the university, the roughly dozen members agreed that the opportunity to play for a long weekend was worth 400 dollars each.

Unlike a couple of the teams, which had snazzy uniforms, the University of South Florida contingent did not even have a team until a few weeks ago. They were just a few guys who played a regular pickup game. They settled on sweatpants and green T-shirts from the college bookstore. Not having names on their shirts caused a few awkward moments when a player would run to the borrowed picnic table/scorer's table with no idea of which of his new team mates was batting next.

But the players all knew the finer points of cricket etiquette.

Nearly all the players were born abroad. And even though the sport had a rich history in the United States until World War II, it is still widely seen here as an obscure game played exclusively by foreigners. Most who play it here are from countries that belonged to the British Commonwealth. (ANI)

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