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New York students take up cricket

April 10, 2008 23:14 IST

Trinidad native John Mitchell dabbled in basketball and baseball after arriving in the United States at the age of 9. But it took the introduction of cricket at his New York school to find a sport he felt at home with.

"I never got the hang of it," the 17-year-old says of baseball, even though, like cricket, it involves hitting a ball with a bat.

But cricket "feels nice and irie to me," he said using a Caribbean expression for well-being.

New York, a city famously addicted to the baseball rivalry between fans of the Yankees and the Mets, this spring became the first U.S. school district to introduce cricket as a sport in public high schools.

Mitchell now captains a team from Automotive High School, a Brooklyn high school that competes in the New York City cricket league.

Most of the players in the league are from the West Indies, India or Pakistan, where cricket is a national passion.

Some have been lobbying for a cricket league for years, as American sports like baseball, basketball and American football failed to ignite the same interest.

School sports officials say they attracted more interest in the league than they originally expected, with 14 teams, and expect the league to grow.

"We're not going to replace basketball and football any time soon, but it will spill over," said Bassett Thompson, cricket commissioner of the Public Schools Athletic League.

Cricket may be one of the world's most popular sports, but it has long failed to catch on in the United States.

WICKETS, DUCKS?

Many Americans are baffled by the terminology of wickets, ducks and spinners and consider the sport complicated, slow and long, with games that can last as long as five days.

The interest of some U.S.-born teenagers, however, has been piqued by the league.

Timothy Brown plays football, baseball, handball, basketball and wrestles at the Automotive High School. He's joined the cricket team as well, initially missing the comfort of the baseball mitt that provides protection for the hand.

"When I first started playing I thought you could have a glove, because the ball is kind of hard," he said. "I had to get used to the ball. You can't be scared of the ball."

The opportunity to connect to the culture of their home country, or learn about new cultures, also makes the sport attractive to some teenagers.

Angus Armstrong, born and raised in the United States, has been playing cricket for around three years at Stuyvesant High School, before the league was introduced.

He said the experience allows him to gain an insight into cultures of other nations where the sport is popular.

"There's an entire international community out there that so many Americans don't know about," he said.

"I thought that entering that international community myself to see what it's like would be fascinating."

(Additional reporting by Samira Nanda; Editing by Daniel Trotta and Frances Kerry)

Karen Brettell
Source:
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