• Monday, June 24, 2024

CRICKET

Cricket World Cup in US & the south Asian diaspora

The south Asians in the US have never forgotten cricket despite the fact that the game is not too popular in that country where the likes of baseball, basketball and American football rule.

Fans react as they watch the India-Pakistan T20 Cricket World Cup match at a watch party at Citi Field on June 9, 2024 in New York City. (Photo by Adam Gray/Getty Images)

By: Shubham Ghosh

THE high-voltage T20 World Cup match between Asian cricketing arch-rivals India and Pakistan at Nassau County International Cricket Stadium in New York on June 9 generated contradictory emotions among the sea of fans — depending on the colour they wore — blue or green.

Over 34,000 supporters and cricket dignitaries found themselves inside a temporary venue built over three months in the Long Island park to watch the game which India won narrowly despite trailing their opponents for most part of the contest.

Irrespective of the results, however, such matches ensure one thing —  boosting the south Asian community in a country such as the United States, the third most populated nation in the world which offers a big market in terms of broadcasting, sponsors and audience.

When people of Indian origin such as Monank Patel or Saurabh Netravalkar do well for the US against Pakistan and even manage to beat them, somewhere the south Asian cricketing rivalry between India and Pakistan comes to the fore. The emotions get ignited just like they do whenever India and Pakistan lock horns in other parts of the world where cricket is closely followed.

Read: Pakistan snatch defeat against India from jaws of victory

The south Asians in the US have never forgotten cricket despite the fact that the game is not too popular in that country where the likes of baseball, basketball and American football rule. But that might change now since the sport is gaining a foothold at various levels.

Take the case of Anjum Sabar, captain of PakAmerica Cricket Club. The 43-year-old businessman had migrated to the US from Pakistan in the late 1990s and started playing cricket for the club a year later. Every Sunday, he heads out to different parts of the Apple to take part in the game he grew up playing back in Pakistan, Al Jazeera reported.

Read: Sack entire Pakistan team, Akram fumes after incredible loss to India

Sabar is not alone. Whether they are from India, Pakistan or any other cricket-playing nations from south Asia, obsession for cricket remains a common thing for people who originate from the partitioned landmass of south Asia and migrated to the West.

Today, these cricketers from the diaspora community in the US play matches in the neighbourhood every weekend that not only give them a temporary break from the busy life but also relive the passion they or their older generations grew up with. New York is no exception.

For many Americans, cricket is something that still confuses them. But they say they are trying to figure it out from various sources after witnessing the kind of excitement that it generates among the members of the diaspora community.

New York has seen cricket matches being played for more than four decades. The city’s Commonwealth Cricket League (CCL) came together in New York in the late 1970s and comprises more than 120 clubs, Imran Pasha, a Long Island community leader who grew up playing cricket in India’s Hyderabad, told Al Jazeera.

According to him, every type of cricket match is played in the American city which is even hosting high-profile cricket contests.

The fact that the US got the hosting rights for 16 of 53 matches of the ongoing T20 World Cup, including the India-Pakistan clash, certainly boosts its stature as a nation involved in cricket. Their show in the tournament so far in which they have beaten Canada and Pakistan make it even more special. And the fact that many of the new teams playing the game in this tournament include players of south Asian origin heightens that diaspora’s role in promoting cricket — both in the US and those teams.

Matches between India and Pakistan, especially like the nail-biting one that happened on June 9, will increase the appetite for the sport in the US. Cricket will be among the games played in the Summer Olympics in Los Angeles in 2028. This was also the first major city in America that was considered by the International Cricket Council to host the World Cup and in December 2022, decided to make a stadium of 25,000 sitting capacity in California, The Athletic reported. But the significant time difference between Los Angeles and India later saw the decision being changed.

Pasha, who plays for the Long Island Cricket Club in the local league, is involved with Nassau County’s local subcommittee that works with the ICC on matters related to the World Cup matches that New York is hosting. The 45-year-old, who is a software engineer by profession, is optimistic about the opportunities that the matches in the World Cup could create for New York’s local community as well as for businesses across Nassau County, the Al Jazeera report added. 

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