Cricket World Cup invades New York area with games in Nassau County

Of all the high-profile sites in the New York area that came under threat from Islamist extremists this summer, none was more unexpected than the Nassau County International Cricket Stadium (NCICS) on Long Island. Not because the 34,000-seat open-air complex isn’t a prime target, but because who knew there was a world-class cricket stadium just 32 miles east of Manhattan?

You would be forgiven if you didn’t. Just four months ago, the 8.3-acre site at Eisenhower Park in East Meadow was little more than a muddy field requiring some maintenance. That opportunity has now arrived in the form of the Men’s T20 Cricket World Cup, the biennial 20-team tournament which lands at the stadium on Monday and continues until June 12.

Eight of the tournament’s 55 matches will be played at NCICS, including Sunday’s clash between India and Pakistan, widely seen as the most exciting of the Cup and an apparent IS target, according to recent reports. The rest of the tournament will take place in Florida, Texas and the Caribbean. In 2022 in Australia, England beat Pakistan to be crowned champions. The United States – who won their opening match with a comeback Saturday in Dallas – will make their only appearance at Eisenhower Park on June 12 against powerhouse India.

Nassau County will host Cricket World Cup matches. Getty Images

This year’s T20 final – T20 cricket is a condensed version, usually 3¹/₂ hours, of a traditional Test match which can last five days – will take place in Barbados on June 30.

Few cities rival New York when it comes to world-class sports, but Gotham makes for an unlikely cricket scene. Critics shared similar feelings about soccer in 1994, when FIFA hosted the World Cup in the United States. With around 200,000 players in America today, cricket is still far behind the status of football thirty years ago. But T20 organizers hope the tournament can do for American cricket what FIFA has done for soccer.

“The United States already has one of the largest television audiences for cricket in the world, so we hope this event will be an opportunity for fans to see top-level cricket in their own backyard,” Brett said Jones, CEO of the local organizing committee. T20 USA.

The raw materials are already there. According to USA Cricket, there are some 400 local cricket leagues across America, including here in New York. Like football, popularized by immigrants from Latin America, the growth of cricket is fueled by emigrants, particularly those from the Caribbean and South Asia. There are over a million immigrants from these areas in the New York area, making it the American epicenter of cricket. “That’s why the opportunity to play there was obviously a no-brainer,” adds Jones.

Nassau County International Cricket Stadium Getty Images

New York may be new to cricket, but the game is not new to New York. Brought to you by British colonizers in the 18th century, the New York Gazette reported on a match between a London team and a local team in 1751. In September 1844, a match between the United States and Canada took place in this which is today the corner of the street. at Fifth Avenue and 31st Street – the very first international match in sports history, predating the America’s Cup by seven years.

Cricket remained popular until the mid-19th century, when “the civil war killed cricket,” Professor Tim Lockley, a social historian at the University of Warwick, told the Post. “This was both literal in the form of more than 600,000 deaths, some of whom were cricketers, and figurative, since the South was in disarray after 1865 and was in no condition to organize sports.

“But north or south, there was no immediate transition to pre-war life.”

What really killed cricket, however, was baseball, which not only required hours – not days – for matches, but could also be played on almost any field rather than one requiring constant maintenance.

When the Imperial Cricket Conference (later the International Cricket Council) denied membership to the United States in 1909, American cricket was on life support and without immigrants arriving from cricket-playing countries the game might have died .

The T20 Cricket World Cup is a biennial tournament involving 20 teams. P.A.

Immigrants like Clarence Modeste.

Originally from Tobago, Modeste arrived in Brooklyn in 1959 and is president of New York’s oldest cricket club, the Staten Island Cricket Club, of which he has been a member since 1961.

“I remember we were playing in the New York Metropolitan League in the ’60s and there were only six teams in the city,” recalls the retired radiologist from Queens Village.

John Moore, professor of microbiology and immunology at Cornell University, agrees. He arrived in New York from England in 1992 and is a member of one of New York’s biggest clubs, the Wanderers, and also plays for the Mad Dogs. He also coordinates the World Series League.

“There could be 100 cricket matches every weekend in New York,” he added. “And some of them are of a very high standard, even if the locations are not up to par.”

Even the New York Police Department has a team.

Det. Ahmad Chohan, from East Meadow, left Pakistan for America at 14, but with nowhere to play his interest waned. It wasn’t until he found like-minded colleagues that they joined forces.

“There were all these officers from South Asia and the Caribbean who wanted to play, so we formed our NYPD team in 2010 and we’ve been playing ever since,” he said.

Chubb Bedassee, meanwhile, owns Brooklyn-based Bedassee Sports, the city’s only cricket store. His family has been in business since his cricket-mad father emigrated from Guyana in the 1950s, opening his first shop.

“It’s a thriving scene,” he said. “We have all these immigrants who come to New York and then move further away, and they take this passion for cricket everywhere they go.

“And the game continues to spread.”

In 2021, the game’s governing body in America, USA Cricket and Cricket West Indies submitted a joint bid to host the ninth edition of the tournament and were selected as hosts by the ICC in November that year.

The popularity of cricket here is one of the main reasons why New York got the green light for World Cup matches and since then interest has grown.

The popularity of cricket here is one of the main reasons why New York got the green light for World Cup matches and since then interest has grown. Getty Images

Last year, the inaugural season of Major League Cricket (MLC) took place in July and more than 70,000 fans attended the 18-day, six-team tournament played at Grand Prairie Stadium in Dallas and Church Street Park in Morrisville, North Carolina.

The competition, won by the New York franchise, was followed in 87 countries, with matches broadcast live on CBS Sports. The season also generated revenue of $8 million, exceeding expectations.

With eight World Cup matches taking place in New York, getting here hasn’t been easy.

Initially, the Bronx’s Van Cortlandt Park was intended to accommodate a stadium, but it faced fierce resistance from local community groups and, ironically, from the park’s cricket players, including entire seasons would be canceled to make way at this stage.

When the ICC reversed course in September 2023, attention shifted to Eisenhower Park, a 930-acre public space in Nassau County, where, in just 106 days, a temporary 34,000-seat stadium was built. been built.

With eight World Cup matches taking place in New York, getting here hasn’t been easy. AFP via Getty Images

“The biggest challenge was the accelerated schedule to build such a large stadium,” said Jeff Keas, senior director at Populous, the stadium designers. “Many thought it wasn’t possible, but we did it.”

Built at a reported cost of $30 million and financed by T20 USA, the stadium features 40-row, 75-foot-high stands that have previously been used in Formula One, professional golf and tennis.

“From a sustainability standpoint, the NCICS design is unique,” ​​Keas said. “The stands are being reused and the seats are temporary so they can all be put back into circulation once the ICC T20 World Cup is over.”

As cricket requires closely cultivated fields and grounds (the narrow strip between the bowler and the batter), no expense was spared in creating perfect playing surfaces. For three months, the entire field and 10 locations were grown in Florida and transported by 20 trucks the 1,300 miles to Long Island.

The Nassau County International Cricket Stadium is preparing for the Cricket World Cup. Getty Images

Today, NCICS towers over Eisenhower Park, and Chohan can’t wait to get it underway.

“It’s amazing to think that there is going to be a Cricket World Cup near my house. I can even walk there,” he said.

Rudolph John, 69, is originally from St. Vincent but now lives in Farmingdale. He is co-founder of the Long Island Youth Cricket Academy (LIYCA), which teaches youth at Eisenhower Park every Saturday.

“I really hope the World Cup does for cricket what the FIFA World Cup did for the sport when it was held here in 1994,” said the former New York Department of Corrections officer.

Cricket requires closely cultivated fields and locations. Getty Images

Modestly, the president of the Staten Island Cricket Club is of the same opinion.

“We had soccer moms,” he said. “Now we need cricket moms.”

At the NCICS opening two weeks ago, organizers introduced ambassadors including cricket legends Curtly Ambrose (West Indies) and Shoaib Malik (Pakistan), as well as sprint superstar Usain Bolt.

Clearly, the World Cup is determined to make a splash.

“Clearly, the United States is strategically important to world soccer as we continue to grow the sport, so starting now with the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup and continuing through the Los Angeles Olympics in 2028, we are.”

While the number of participants increases, raising awareness of cricket among the general public remains a work in progress. A recent survey of 1,142 US citizens by YouGov found that eight in ten were not aware of any cricket leagues, while only one in five expressed interest in the World Cup.

That said, 52 percent of respondents still believe the United States will win the competition.

The United States is among the longest shots in the field, but the tournament being held in the United States is already the biggest victory.

New York Post

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