From England’s fields to the world: How cricket became the world’s second most popular sport

An English team of professionals on their way to North America for the first-ever overseas tour in 1859. (Wikimedia Commons)
An English team of professionals on their way to North America for the first-ever overseas tour in 1859. (Wikimedia Commons)
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Updated 16 September 2021

From England’s fields to the world: How cricket became the world’s second most popular sport

An English team of professionals on their way to North America for the first-ever overseas tour in 1859. (Wikimedia Commons)
  • Three recent additions mean the International Cricket Council now has 94 associate members alongside 12 full members

LONDON: At its 78th annual general meeting, held virtually this year in mid-July, the International Cricket Council (ICC) welcomed three new associate members. Two of them — Mongolia and Tajikistan — joined for the first time, whilst Switzerland was readmitted after losing its membership in 2012.

This means that, in addition to the twelve full ICC members, there are now 94 associate members, Zambia having been expelled in 2019 and Russia suspended in 2021 for non-compliance with certain membership criteria.

It is a common assumption that cricket’s initial geographical spread was a function of the British Empire. The sailors and soldiers, traders, missionaries, convicts, settlers, administrators all contributed to it being played in North America, India, Australia, New Zealand, the Caribbean and parts of Africa, especially the south and east.     

According to USA Cricket, which has run the game since 2018 after the expulsion of the United States of America Cricket Association in 2017, the first reference to cricket being played there was in 1709. The first international match was played between the US and Canada in September 1844. By the mid 1800’s, cricket was played in 22 states by up to a thousand clubs; during the Civil War, baseball, a shorter game, became more popular with troops and has since dominated.    

The first reference to play in India is reported to have been between sailors of the East India Company in 1721. No doubt, cricket was played within the colonial enclaves of India but it was not until the mid-19th century that reports of organized matches began to appear. If the development of cricket in England was rural, it was, by contrast, urban in India, being driven initially by Parsis in Bombay, who sought to epitomize British values in their everyday lifestyles.

Around the same time, international tours became frequent commercial ventures played by professionals. Thus, an English party toured the US and Canada in 1859 and another toured Australia in 1861-62. In 1868, an Australian Aboriginal side toured England and, in 1877, England played its first Test match against Australia to begin the game’s oldest rivalry.

The domination of these tours by professionals began to wane, as the English cricket establishment became increasingly influenced by upper class products of public schools. One leading light was Lord Harris, who, as governor of Bombay, promoted cricket as a unifying force that generated team spirit, character, but was above all an amateur pursuit.

Lord Hawke was of similar mind. He led parties of amateurs to India, South Africa, the West Indies, Australia and New Zealand between 1892 and 1903. These tours were the stuff of soft diplomacy, the game seeking to expand its influence wherever English was spoken, promoting particular moral codes and supporting “imperial” purpose. 

This divergence between amateur and professional approaches to the game had repercussions until well in to the second half of the 20th century. The model of cricket promoted by the likes of Harris and Hawke, in which the cultivation of a superior style, played in an elegant and graceful manner under pressure, served to exclude many from playing the game.

On top of that, cricket was accused of being used as an instrument to maintain hegemonic order; an agent of control and reaffirmation. In the West Indies, it took until 1948 for a black man to be appointed captain, but only for one match. In South Africa, a Test-playing nation since 1889, it took until 2006 for a non-white man to be appointed captain. In India, the game was arranged around religious and communal lines until after independence. 

The control of the game by white, mainly English, men has been loosened gradually over the last 50 years. A symbol of that control was embodied in the Imperial Cricket Conference, formed in 1909 to administrate the game, primarily from an English perspective, with England, South Africa and Australia being founder members. In 1965, “Imperial” became “International”; in 1989 “Council” replaced “Conference,” and in 2005, the ICC headquarters moved from London to Dubai.

It is reasonable to argue that this move has provided the impetus for the ICC to be much more international in its perspective, encouraging a larger number of national cricket governing bodies to promote cricket at a wider level of youth, and through women’s cricket. The game is now the second most popular sport in the world, thanks in large part to India, along with Pakistan and Bangladesh, with a combined population approaching 1.5 billion.

Yet, cricket is absent from the Olympics, having made its one and only appearance at the 1900 Games, when England defeated France. There are hopes that it may feature in 2028 in Los Angeles, and the ICC has formed a committee to explore it.

A key issue is which format is most suitable, with T20 and T10 believed to be under discussion. The latter was introduced in the UAE in 2017, followed by Qatar, Malaysia, Fiji and over 10 European countries. Another issue is what its impact might be on revenue streams that currently feed directly into cricket. If these issues can be overcome, cricket at the Olympics would be a major boost to the expansion of cricket’s global and increasingly inclusive appeal, long removed from its previous narrow, imperial, expansionist phase.


Azarenka books spot in Indian Wells final against Badosa

Azarenka books spot in Indian Wells final against Badosa
Updated 28 sec ago

Azarenka books spot in Indian Wells final against Badosa

Azarenka books spot in Indian Wells final against Badosa
  • Azarenka clinched victory on her first match point when Ostapenko slammed a forehand into the net

INDIAN WELLS: Victoria Azarenka, who is hoping to become the first three-time WTA winner in Indian Wells, punched her ticket to Sunday’s final by rallying to beat former French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko 3-6, 6-3, 7-5.

Two-time Australian Open winner Azarenka continued her solid play in the California desert as she goes for her first title of 2021 and 22nd of her career.

The 32-year-old arrived in the semifinals without dropping a set and after losing the first one to Ostapenko she settled in and found her form.

Azarenka will face Spaniard Paula Badosa, who defeated Ons Jabeur in straight sets 6-3, 6-3.

Azarenka is seeking to win the tournament for the third time after victories in 2012 and 2016.

She is the only former champion left in either the women’s or men’s field, and with another victory can separate herself from the list of women who have won the trophy twice — which includes Martina Navratilova, Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova.

Azarenka clinched victory on her first match point when Ostapenko slammed a forehand into the net.

This was the second career meeting between the two but the first on hardcourt, so it took Azarenka time to feel her opponent out and figure out her weaknesses.

“She was playing really incredible in the first set, not giving me much,” said Azarenka.

“I was just trying to find an opportunity — actually create an opportunity — for me to get back into the match and take a little bit more control. I really had to fight for every ball.”

Ostapenko controlled most of the first set, breaking Azarenka in the second game to go up 2-0. She then held serve to jump out to a 3-0 lead using her powerful ground strokes to move the Belarusian around the court.

Azarenka went down again 2-0 in the second set but then caught fire while holding serve in the third game.

That started a run of five straight games to take a 5-2 lead. Ostapenko held serve once more but Azarenka served out the set to level the match.

Azarenka raised her level another notch in a hard-fought third set, winning the final three games to get to the final where she will face Badosa for the first time.

Meanwhile, Badosa has reached the final in her first appearance in Indian Wells, cooling off Jabeur, who has been one of the hottest players on the Tour with 48 wins in 2021.


Manchester United lose at Leicester, City roll on as five-star Liverpool go top

Manchester United succumbed to a first away league defeat for 30 games by losing 4-2 at Leicester as Liverpool stormed to the top of the Premier League with a 5-0 demolition of Watford on Saturday. (AP/Action Images via Reuters)
Manchester United succumbed to a first away league defeat for 30 games by losing 4-2 at Leicester as Liverpool stormed to the top of the Premier League with a 5-0 demolition of Watford on Saturday. (AP/Action Images via Reuters)
Updated 16 October 2021

Manchester United lose at Leicester, City roll on as five-star Liverpool go top

Manchester United succumbed to a first away league defeat for 30 games by losing 4-2 at Leicester as Liverpool stormed to the top of the Premier League with a 5-0 demolition of Watford on Saturday. (AP/Action Images via Reuters)
  • Mohamed Salah again took most of the plaudits for another stunning solo goal

LONDON: Manchester United succumbed to a first away league defeat for 30 games by losing 4-2 at Leicester as Liverpool stormed to the top of the Premier League with a 5-0 demolition of Watford on Saturday.
Manchester City moved into second with a 2-0 win over Burnley, while Chelsea can move back to the top of the table when they travel to Brentford later in the day.
But the focus will fall on United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer after his side failed to win for the third consecutive Premier League game.
United led at the King Power thanks to Mason Greenwood’s spectacular strike, but were quickly pegged back by Youri Tielemans’ dinked finish beyond David de Gea.
A flurry of four goals in the final 12 minutes then condemned Solskjaer’s men to a first defeat on the road since January 2020.
Caglar Soyuncu put Leicester in front before Marcus Rashford equalized on his first appearance of the season after shoulder surgery.
Straight from kick-off, United’s leaky defense was breached once more as Jamie Vardy smashed home and Patson Daka’s first Leicester goal in stoppage time sealed a much-needed win for Brendan Rodgers’ men.
Roberto Firmino scored his first hat-trick since 2018 as Liverpool ran riot at Vicarage Road in Claudio Ranieri’s first match as Watford boss.
But it was Mohamed Salah who again took most of the plaudits for another stunning solo goal to take his tally for the season to 10 in as many games.
“In this moment it is clear that there is no one better than him,” said Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp of the Egyptian.
Salah helped open the floodgates with a defense-splitting pass that teed up Sadio Mane to score his 100th Premier League goal.
Firmino would have been unavailable due to a late return from international duty but for an injury that forced him to withdraw from the Brazil squad.
He tapped home his first goal from James Milner’s cross before half-time and took advantage of another open goal after Ben Foster parried Craig Cathcart’s attempted clearance.
Salah left four Manchester City defenders trailing to score in a thrilling 2-2 draw before the international break and pulled off a similar feat before curling into the far corner.
Firmino then completed the rout in stoppage time.
City did not need to hit top gear to see off Burnley at the Etihad and remain one point behind Liverpool at the top of the table.
Bernardo Silva and Kevin De Bruyne were on target either side of half-time for Pep Guardiola’s men.
Wolves produced a miraculous comeback from 2-0 down with 10 minutes remaining to win 3-2 at Aston Villa.
Danny Ings and John McGinn had put the hosts in a commanding position at Villa Park.
But Romain Saiss, Conor Coady and Ruben Neves handed Bruno Lage’s men a dramatic three points.
Southampton got their first league win of the season thanks to Armando Broja’s goal to beat Leeds 1-0.
Norwich remain winless and bottom of the table after a 0-0 draw with Brighton.


360VUZ to bring football action to fans’ mobile phones

360VUZ has partnered with the Saudi Professional League to bring top tier football action to fans’ mobile phones. (Supplied/360VUZ)
360VUZ has partnered with the Saudi Professional League to bring top tier football action to fans’ mobile phones. (Supplied/360VUZ)
Updated 16 October 2021

360VUZ to bring football action to fans’ mobile phones

360VUZ has partnered with the Saudi Professional League to bring top tier football action to fans’ mobile phones. (Supplied/360VUZ)
  • Under agreement with Saudi Professional League a new dedicated channel will allow users to navigate easily on the app and watch the top tier Saudi clubs in action

RIYADH: 360VUZ, the immersive virtual mobile app has partnered with the Saudi Professional League to offer a fuller experience to football fans, enabling them to watch highlights of the SPL games, behind the scenes videos and exclusive interviews with players all in 360 degrees.

The new partnership will play a major role in engaging 360VUZ users with the Saudi league, making it one of the first major leagues in the world to bring an immersive football content to screens.

Khaled Zaatarah, founder and Chief Executive Officer of 360VUZ, said: “We are happy to team up with Saudi Professional League to show spectacular videos of the league on our platform. In 360VUZ we strive to offer an immersive experience with vital content for all our users just through using their phones.”

360VUZ will offer a dedicated channel for SPL, which will allow the users to navigate easily on the app and watch the top tier Saudi clubs in action. The app includes KBW Ventures — founded by Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz, President of Saudi Sports For All Federation — as one of its investors.

“Seeing 360VUZ ink this partnership with the Saudi Professional League is really exciting for me as an investor,” Prince Khaled said. “During their initial pitch, I could see how well their immersive experience would work for Saudi sports enthusiasts, and now with SPL the app can bring these moments to fans both in and outside of the Kingdom.”

Abdul Aziz Al Afaleq, Chairman of the Board at Saudi Pro League, said: “We are keen on adopting the latest trends and technologies around the world, and featuring our league on 360VUZ app makes us the first league to present exclusive and immersive video content to our fans.”

“This partnership aims at enhancing our connection with the league’s fans by offering a one-of-a-kind experience to watch the league’s stars and the latest highlights of our matches,” he said.


Faf du Plessis stars as Chennai Super Kings down Kolkata Knight Riders to win fourth IPL title in Dubai

Chennai, winners in 2010, 2011 and 2018, remain one of the most successful IPL franchises after five-time champions Mumbai Indians. (Twitter: @IPL)
Chennai, winners in 2010, 2011 and 2018, remain one of the most successful IPL franchises after five-time champions Mumbai Indians. (Twitter: @IPL)
Updated 16 October 2021

Faf du Plessis stars as Chennai Super Kings down Kolkata Knight Riders to win fourth IPL title in Dubai

Chennai, winners in 2010, 2011 and 2018, remain one of the most successful IPL franchises after five-time champions Mumbai Indians. (Twitter: @IPL)

DUBAI: Faf du Plessis smashed an attacking half-century to help Chennai Super Kings thrash Kolkata Knight Riders by 27 runs and clinch their fourth Indian Premier League title on Friday.
Du Plessis’ 86 off 59 balls guided Chennai to 192-3, a total their bowlers defended by restricting Kolkata to 165-9 in the final in Dubai.
Opener Venkatesh Iyer hit a 32-ball 50 but the knock was not enough to stop Chennai’s M.S. Dhoni from a landmark win in his 300th match as T20 skipper.
“We had match winners coming game after game and doing really well,” said Dhoni who also praised Kolkata for reviving their fortunes in the tournament’s second leg.
“Every final is special, if you look at the stats, we may say we’re the most consistent team to lose the final too. I feel it’s important to come back strong, especially in the knockouts.”
Chennai, winners in 2010, 2011 and 2018, remain one of the most successful IPL franchises after five-time champions Mumbai Indians who failed to defend their title this season.
Shardul Thakur took three wickets including twin strikes in one over to hurt two-time champions Kolkata who came into the final on the back of four successive wins.
Spinner Ravindra Jadeja and pace bowler Josh Hazlewood took two wickets each.
Eoin Morgan’s Kolkata won the toss and elected to field but their bowlers failed to get a wicket until the ninth over and took a hammering in Dubai.
Ruturaj Gaikwad fell for 32 off spinner Sunil Narine but Du Plessis kept up the charge to raise his fifty with a six amid raucous support for Chennai at a nearly packed stadium.
The South African veteran smashed seven fours and three sixes and put on key partnerships with Robin Uthappa, who made 31, and Moeen Ali, who hit an unbeaten 37 off 20 balls.
“That was a great day. It was also my 100th game in the IPL,” said man of the match Du Plessis who scored 600 runs this season.
“I have loved my time here. I have done almost ten years here — two seasons were a bit of a break. Number four in the trophy cabinet is really good.”
Du Plessis was all praise for his opening partner Gaikwad who topped the season’s batting chart with 635 runs and named emerging player of the tournament.
Du Plessis was out on the final ball off pace bowler Shivam Mavi. Narine was Kolkata’s best bowler with figures of 2-26.
Kolkata started strongly with Iyer and Shubman Gill, who made 51, putting on a quickfire opening stand of 91.
But Chennai hit back with Thakur’s twin strikes in one over including Iyer’s key wicket as wheels came off the Kolkata chase.
“We are extremely proud of the fight we have shown. The character and fight is trademark,” Morgan said of his side that bounced back from a seventh place in the first leg to storm into the playoffs and then the final.
The tournament was halted midway due to a surging pandemic in India in may and resumed in the United Arab Emirates last month.


Infantino says biennial World Cup gives countries chance to ‘dream’

Infantino says biennial World Cup gives countries chance to ‘dream’
Updated 15 October 2021

Infantino says biennial World Cup gives countries chance to ‘dream’

Infantino says biennial World Cup gives countries chance to ‘dream’
  • The biennial World Cup project has come in for heavy criticism from continental federations UEFA and CONMEBOL
  • "Our job as FIFA is to constantly think about how we can improve football in the world, to make football truly global," Infantino said in Caracas

CARACAS: FIFA president Gianni Infantino on Friday defended his plan to hold the World Cup every two years during a visit to Venezuela, a country that has never qualified for the global showpiece.
The biennial World Cup project, which has the backing of former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, has come in for heavy criticism from continental federations UEFA and CONMEBOL, as well as coaches and pundits.
“Our job as FIFA is to constantly think about how we can improve football in the world, to make football truly global,” Infantino said during an event in the Venezuelan capital Caracas.
“The FIFA president is president of the 111 countries and all those countries have the right to dream, a dream like the Vinotinto (Venezuela’s national team) dream.
“They also have to be able to achieve that dream because if you have to dream for eternity, in the end you prefer to do other things.”
Infantino insisted that a biennial World Cup would increase the chances for smaller nations to qualify.
“When it was decided to organize a World Cup every four years, more or less 100 years ago, FIFA had 40 countries. It’s time to re-analyze the issue.”
Infantino said South American sides were often at a disadvantage due to the amount of travel they have to do compared to European sides.
Europe has hosted the World Cup more than twice as often (11 times) than any other continent.
South America have welcomed the tournament five times. Africa and Asia have only hosted it once each, although the next one is in Qatar.
“If Messi has to travel 350,000 kilometers to play a World Cup and Cristiano Ronaldo 50,000 to play ... I think it’s normal that in June the South Americans are a bit more tired than the Europeans,” said Infantino.
“Since 2002, Brazil have not won a single World Cup knock-out match against a European side ... Not for 20 years, and that’s Brazil!“