Cosmos Cricket Lecture – PART 1
By Clifford Hinds
The Rise And Fall Of Cricket In The USA
The main objective of this project is to discuss the reasons for the rise and fall of the game of cricket in the USA. However, instead of focusing on the national cricket organization, I give some focus to New York.
The Rise Of Cricket
Cricket in the 1700 s was basically a sport for the rich gentlemen of the times, who had the financial means to support the game. Prize money was associated with the game and so was gambling. In England, the sport began to be professionalized where players who played full time were recruited and paid by the rich” gentlemen” who built a team for fun and profit. The game was brought to America by the colonizers.
As early as 1709, a Virginia plantation owner noted “I rose at 6:00 am and read a chapter in Hebrew. At about 10:00 am we played cricket. After we ate lunch, we played cricket again.” William Stephens, a planter, living in Georgia in 1737 reported, “Many of our townsmen, freeholders, inmates and servants were assembled in the principal square for cricket and other sports.”
After years of developmental changes, the game of cricket finally started to take shape. In 1744 the first Laws of Cricket were published in England and revised in 1789. NY weekly Post Boy reported a match in 1751 won by a NY team 80/86 over another team, 43/47. It is likely that both teams were selected from players in NY.
The laws of the game in the USA were formalized in 1754 after Ben Franklin brought back from England, a copy of the 1744 laws. There was notice of a cricket match in Maryland in 1754 and an ad for cricket equipment in April 1786. NY Independent Journal.
At the turn of the 19th century, the game took its modern form in England. The 2 stump design of the 1789 laws gave way to three and balls per over went from 4-5-6. Fields were enclosed, manicured and mowed. Pitches rolled smooth to provide more consistent bounces so batters could develop consistent stroke play and score more runs. Nothing like that occurred in the USA.
It is reported that George Washington was strong supporter and probably played a game in Valley Forge, PA. When Congress was deciding what to call the head of the US government, John Adams that if leaders of cricket clubs could be called presidents then so should the leader of the nation. Others disagreed with him.
The revolutionary war between England America created a dislike for anything British. However in the late 1700s cricket was played in Philadelphia, NY, Hartford and Boston.
1n 1833, students at Haverford College formed what is considered the first cricket club exclusively with Americans. It was short lived but laid foundation for other clubs. 1844 St Georges Cricket Club played a Canadian team in Bloomingdale Park, New York city. This first international sporting event attracted 20, 000 persons who placed wagers on the game of about$120,000, about $2.3 million today.
As the new Americans moved west and south so did the game. It is reported that Abe Lincoln turned out to watch a game in Milwaukee in 1849. By then, 10,000 persons were already playing the game and many more watching. As late as 1855 NY press was still devoting more space to cricket than baseball.
In early 1859, a Mr. Waller of New York put up 500 pounds for 2 matches in the USA and in September 12 professionals from England headed for the USA. This was the first overseas tour of an England X1. George Parr was captain. The Game took place in Hoboken, New Jersey on the 3, 4, and 5 of October. England won both games. England 156. Philadelphia 38/54. England also won the second game, Philadelphia 94/60, England 126/29 for 3. If such tours had been followed up USA may be playing test cricket today but then came the Civil war 1861 between the north and south.
In 1868 an English team led by Edgar Willsher and those of 1872-1873, by R. A Fitzgerald played in Philadelphia. This team also included the great WG Grace.
At its peak, in the mid 1800, cricket was being played in 22 states with up to 1000 clubs.
In Philadelphia, the game remained popular until about the beginning of WW1. The Philadelphian cricket team represented Philadelphia in first class cricket between 1878 and 1913. Most players came from the four chief cricket clubs in Philadelphia. Belmont, Germantown, Merion and Philadelphia. The City of Philadelphia produced a first class team that rivaled the best teams in the world. There were also players from smaller clubs such as Tioga and Moorestown and colleges, UP and Haverford. Over 35 years, the team played- 89 first class games- won 29 –lost 46 – 13 drawn and one abandoned.
Bart King, universally the best American cricketer of all times, Nelson Graves who made his first class debut at age 14, Percy Clarke and John Lester led batting averages from 1897-1908 were the top players of that era.
Primarily a bowler, Barton King, (1873-1965) was a right arm fast bowler and a right handed batsman. RHB RAF. On a tour to England where they played the top counties, he led county bowling averages in 1908. He was highly regarded by Sir Pelham Warner and Sir Donald Bradman.
Staten Island Cricket Club and baseball club was formed in 1872 and the Metropolitan Cricket League was formed in 1890.
1893 an Australia team stopped by on way back from England for a 3 day match at Belmont ground. Philadelphia scored 525 Australia made 199 in their first innings with King taking (5 for 78). Australia was bowled out for 268 in their second innings, giving Philly the win. Australia won the second game by 6 wickets. In another tour in 1912 Philadelphian won the first game by 2 runs with King taking 9 for 78. Australia won the second game by 45 runs with King taking 8 for 74.
The Fall Of The Game
1) The US Civil War stunted the growth of cricket and favored baseball. Baseball was promoted as a native and patriotic sport and it needed only a couple of hours to complete. A game of cricket took too long.
2) INTEREST IN BASEBALL BEGAN TO RISE
The competition with cricket was instant. For example, they used round bats to contrast with the flat bats used in cricket.
3) American cricket remained elitist reserved for the privileged, while England and Australia were professionalizing their game. Clubs such as Philadelphia and Merion paid less attention to cricket and more to other sports.
4) Some City clubs also contributed to their own demise by sponsoring baseball clubs increasing popularity of baseball. The Cincinnati Red Stockings baseball team brought bowler Harry Wright from St. Georges in New York as player and manager. Harry introduced to baseball, the scientific batting and specialized field placement he had learnt in cricket.
5) The Formation of the Imperial Cricket Conference in 1909 under cut any momentum cricket may have had at this time. It excluded non commonwealth countries and denied membership to USA. The Imperial Cricket Conference changed its name to the International Cricket Conference in 1965.
6) The strict and archaic Code of Conduct turned off a lot of young cricketers.
In addition to the above, three major events drove the final nails in the coffin of US cricket.
(a) World War 1 from 1914-1919
(b) The Great Depression of the 1920s and 1930s
(c) World War 2 from 1940-1945
Towards the second half of the 20th century immigrants from Asia and the Caribbean helped to stimulate the rebirth of the game.
The first match televised in the USA was one between the Corinthians and Hollywood cricket Clubs of California in 1958. Cricket received some promotion in the USA when in 1959, the then President Dwight Eisenhower attended a game at the Karachi National Cricket Ground in Pakistan.
In 1961 an expatriate Englishman, John Marder helped to established USACA and that organization was admitted to the ICC as an associate member in 1965. Over the years, the organization has been handicapped by poor governance and lack of proper funding. USA teams continue to compete at the men and Under 19 levels but no money is available for women cricket. The main areas for cricket are now California, Florida and New York.
When New York Region Was Great
The early 1990s signaled the beginning of the glory days of New York. The Inter League competition was of a very high standard. Then came the Red Stripe Competition where players represented their countries. This was followed by the Ed Ahmad Competition which produced some nail biting and exciting finishes.
New York team won the first USA Cricket open which included teams from Canada and the first USACA National Tournament also held at Woodley Park, California. The team repeated in 2004 and 2005 and at one time had 9 picks out of 14 on the USA team. New York also found time to win the LA Open in 2003. This game is remembered because the more games New York won, the lesser the prize money became.
The youth team has done well winning many national tournaments when they have been organized and the women team are the USA national champions. In the last eight years, the men team has floundered even finishing last in a national tournament.
New York has lost its standing on the national scene and only you the stakeholders can bring it back to #1. People need to put petty differences aside and put cricket first. New York is the only region where the leagues and officials are no more than 1 hour apart and yet we don’t have meetings. Other regions include 3 and 4 states.
As Mahatma Gandhi said,” You must be the change you want to see”.
Here are my recommendations:
1. A burning desire and agreement by the major stakeholders to make NY #1 again.
2. Group has to be exclusive with a Regional Outlook. You need to get new people involved.
3. Check your basics- create what you do not have.
Constitution – Incorporation – Bank account – (Later 501C3) – Compile list of all clubs with contacts, Strategic Plan, Standing Committees
Regional plans should be completed by December of each year so that the leagues have enough time to make their adjustments.
4.Reorganize The Regional Administration
League Presidents Representative to USACA
At least 4 Independent Directors
1 male cricketer rep.
1 Youth Coordinator.
1 Women Coordinator.
1 High School Representative.
An Independent Director should be someone from the community who can assist the organization in planning, data processing, fund raising, etc.
5. Plan your own activities, Inter League, NY T/20, and NYPL.