By John L. Aaron
One of the major cricketing events every year in the USA is the Philadelphia international Cricket Festival which continues to attract more and more interest each year. Figuratively, it’s like bringing cricket back to the whet the appetites of the colonies and those who remember cricket as a festive occasion for families. The Philadelphia festival atmosphere is like a fine wine that accompanies an excellent helping at dinner.

Former South Africa captain Shaun Pollock bowls during the 2007 Cricket Wold Cup. Photo by Shiek Mohamed.

One can attribute the success of the festival over the past 20 years to the fantastic organizational skills of those running the show, to the quality of players and teams headlining the event. The festival atmosphere certainly adds to the celebratory nature of the sport, along with its diverse and cultural groups of participants, as well as the year’s celebrity guest cricketer – This year all eyes and lenses will be trained on South African all-rounder Shaun Pollock.

The four-day event scheduled for May 2-5 in Philadelphia is no exception, as 18 teams are slated to invade the “City of Brotherly Love” for Cricket, Lovely T20 Cricket!, as the Philadelphia International Cricket Festival (PICF) celebrates its 21st anniversary. Teams from as far south as Florida and as far north as the United Kingdom, along with squads from Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, North Carolina, and New Jersey, and of course Pennsylvania will converge for a four-day cricket romp at the annual charity event.  Sarasota Cricket Club of Florida returns as the 2012 defending champions.

There are no IPL type franchise fees or salaries involved in the PICF, however, there might as well be, as the tournament is very competitive and the bragging rights stakes are stupendous, as men in and out of their prime can be seen hitting the small round object as high and as far as possible, while their opponents try to hit what sometimes can appear to be three tooth picks, or seek to reunite the batsmen with their lemonades in the pavilion, as urgently as possible. And if the bowler cannot send you packing via that route, they will attempt to do so by a myriad of other ways. Therein lies the challenge, the cunning, the strategy, the excitement, and ultimately the celebration, just like in ye olde Roman times, before cricket was invented and exported to the colonies. Oh, what fun it will be May 2-5, 2013.

The series of T20 matches will be played on cricket grounds with some of the finest outfields in the US, such as Philadelphia Cricket Club, Germantown Cricket Club and Merion Cricket Club grounds. The legendary Sir Garfield Sobers, a previous PICF Guest of Honor, remarked that the event venues were amongst the finest he has seen anywhere in the world.

The appearance of Shaun Maclean Pollock at this year’s festival is significant, not only because Pollock is the all-time Test wickets leader for South Africa and his overall Test and T20 performances wearing the South African colors are exemplary, but his personality and genuine passion for the sport is part of what makes the PICF such a fun event. Pollock puts the fun back in cricket, in a time when the world of cricket appears obsessed with the sport as a commercial enterprise.

Pollock represented South Africa from 1995 to 2008, a career that spanned 108 Test matches, 303 ODIs and 12 T20s. The latter stat would suggest that Pollock departed from international cricket just as the T20 format was becoming popular, so he brings a bit of the classical charm as well as the T20 flair to the festival, and is a worthy ambassador of Australia and the sport. The right-hand batsman and medium fast bowler, joins fellow South Africans Paul Harris, Jonty Rhodes, Mark Boucher and Gary Kirsten, all of whom have appeared at the festival in previous years as Celebrity Guest Cricketers, among several other international stars.

Cricket in Philadelphia is an honored tradition dating back to 1834 when the first American cricket club was founded at Haverford College, and where the only United States Cricket Museum is now located.

Proceeds from fundraising activities during the festival are directed toward the development of youth cricket in the area, through charitable donations.

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