Immigrants fueling a US boom in cricket

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Updated 08 June 2014

Immigrants fueling a US boom in cricket

EAST ISLIP, New York: Cricket, the international game of bats and balls that isn’t baseball, is enjoying a surge of popularity in America, with the debut of a national league this spring and higher demand to build “pitches” across the country.
Areas such as New York City, California’s Silicon Valley, Washington, D.C., Dallas and Chicago have become cricket hotbeds, fueled by an influx of mostly South Asian immigrants, some of whom arrived as part of the high-tech boom.
In the immigrant-rich New York area, cricket has become so popular that lotteries are being held for the chance to play in pitches at some parks. New York City schools still have the only varsity cricket league in the country, but it has doubled in size in just seven years, with 30 teams now competing for the title.
A national traveling league, the American Cricket Champions League, began this spring and has 17 teams from Boston to Los Angeles vying a for a six-team playoff tournament.
For 17-year-old Akash Chowdhury, who arrived in New York City four years ago from Bangladesh and plays in the city schools league, cricket has helped smooth the transition to his new home.
His Brooklyn International High School team, outfitted with crisp, white uniforms and batting helmets like the stars they follow on cable television, often play their games in the outfields of idle baseball diamonds.
“Playing cricket in America helps me remember my back country,” Chowdhury said. “But I really don’t miss it like that, because I can play here.”
In the past several years, communities in states from Maryland to Indiana have taken initiatives to organize youth leagues and build cricket facilities. The United States Youth Cricket Association has donated 1,500 sets of cricket equipment — bats, balls and wickets — to community youth programs around the country.
“We’re hoping that as kids grow up, they will create pressure on school systems to think of cricket,” said Jamie Harrison, CEO of the American Cricket Federation.
Cricket is wildly popular in former countries of the British Empire. The game is played on a field known as a pitch, but the pitcher is called a bowler. The bowler hurls the ball to the opposing team’s batsman, who attempts to hit it with a flattened bat. Depending on how well the ball travels, a hit can result in one or more runs.
In the most traditional forms, a team bowls until 10 opposing batsmen are tagged out, meaning matches can run for days. In other forms, the game is limited by the number of “overs,” a series of six throws. New York City schools play a limited “over” form that lasts two to three hours.
John Aaron, executive secretary of the American Cricket Federation, grew up playing the game in his native Guyana. He compares cricket in the US to where soccer was just a few decades ago.
“When soccer first started here, people said it’s not going to go anywhere — American football is the thing,” Aaron said. “Soccer has not replaced American football, but it has certainly taken off now, hasn’t it? It’s attracting international teams coming here to play. Cricket can do the same thing.”
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Associated Press video journalist David Martin contributed to this report.


Dapper Pirlo and Juventus move on from Sarri era

Updated 22 September 2020

Dapper Pirlo and Juventus move on from Sarri era

  • Pirlo’s Juve look slicker and more attractive than the Bianconeri under Sarri

MILAN: Wearing a suit and tie, new Juventus coach Andrea Pirlo cut a very different figure on the sidelines to his predecessor Maurizio Sarri, who often appeared wearing a tracksuit.

And his Juventus team also looked slicker and more attractive than the Bianconeri of the Sarri era.

Right from the start of Juve’s 3-0 win at Sampdoria in Serie A on Sunday there was an intensity to the team’s play that had been lacking for much of the previous year.

“We accepted the changes made by the club,” Juventus defender Leonardo Bonucci said. “This season, the new coach is Pirlo, who has changed our way of interpreting soccer that we had last year.

“It’s too early to say if it is right or not, but it is different.”

Juve’s new players also suit Juve’s new style even if Weston McKennie — the first American to play for the Italian champion — was the only player Pirlo signed.

McKennie assisted on two of his side’s goals and also had chances himself.

Two of the team’s other new players who stood out, Dejan Kulusevski and Arthur, were signed by Sarri but fit well into Pirlo’s set-up.

“We have four central midfielders with the right characteristics to play like this,” Bonucci said. “McKennie, Adrien and Arthur and Rodrigo cover a lot of the pitch. They have the legs to be aggressive and are also good at passing the ball.

“That way, we manage to unite being aggressive and having more quality in possession, I think that’s the difference from last season.”

Pirlo has had little time to settle into his new role. The 41-year-old was handed his first coaching job at the end of July when he was put in charge of Juventus’ under-23 team, which play in Serie C. But he had not led a game before he was promoted to replace the fired Sarri.

However, Pirlo knows several of the players well having played with them at the club.

The former midfield great kicked off an unprecedented era of dominance when he joined Juventus in 2011, helping the side to the first four of its record nine successive Serie A titles.

Pirlo has once again been tasked with leading the team to new heights — this time the Champions League, which Juventus hasn’t won since 1996 but which Pirlo won as a player twice with AC Milan.

Massimiliano Allegri went closest for Juventus, steering it to the final in 2015 and 2017.

“Pirlo is much more similar to Allegri (than Sarri), but everyone has their own character,” Bonucci said with a wry smile and a laugh. “Andrea transmits a lot of calm serenity, as he did when he was a player when you could give him the ball in the midst of five opponents and you were sure he wouldn’t lose it.

“We have great respect for him and for this path that has just begun, which I’m sure will allow us to take away great satisfaction.”