By Orville Hall
Having read Tom Melville’s commentary on “Show me the Americans”, as he referred to the cricket games which were played in Florida, I wish to take another view of what transpired in Fort Lauderdale this past weekend. Thousands of cricket-loving fans packed into the Central Broward Regional Park to witness history in the making; an ICC- sanctioned T20 series between The West Indies and New Zealand. By all accounts, it was a resounding success.
I will cede Mr. Melvin’s point of contention, that there weren’t too many Americans in the stands for these games, but no one expected that to be the case, at least, not yet. We still have a long way to go in refining this game to meet the expectations of the American public, and the educational process has already begun.
It began about two years ago, when Jamie Harrison, an American school teacher from Baltimore, was introduced to the game while taking his students on a tour. Realizing that the kids were having so much fun “playing” the game that day, he brought the idea back to the classroom, and continued working with his students who were eager to learn more about this “foreign” game. Harrison, along with a few others, recognized the need for getting this sport into the school system, and the United States Youth Cricket Association was born. To date, the USYCA has distributed over 1000 cricket sets to schools all across the USA.
The results are already being manifested in places like Maryland, Kansas and Massachusetts. This, in my opinion, is the model that we must implement if we expect to see an elevation of the game in this country. There is absolute no reason why we can operate on parallel tracks; satisfying the needs of the expat community by bringing in the International games, while introducing the game at the elementary level, so that we can have a “feeder” system, where young American adults can begin to accept the game as one of the mainstream sports. Once the kids begin to show interest in the sport, the school administrators will have to sit up and take notice. Funds for cricket will be included in the budgets, grounds will be provided for them to play, parents will begin to notice, the American media will begin the cover it, and the process would have begun.
It’s not a simple task by any means, but it is surely a workable one, and one that has begun to pay dividends in some of the schools around the country. Several years ago, soccer was at a similar stage in this country, and look where it is today. I would hope that what transpired in Florida this past weekend will be a microcosm of even better things to come, as we strive to satisfy the insatiable appetite of our expat communities, while encouraging our school-age kids to adopt the game as their own.