Cricket – conjuring stereotypical connotations of spectators picnicking in lush greenery and with a “tea break” being part of a long match’s schedule – is innately British.
Undoubtedly surprising to most, the popular Commonwealth sport’s oldest rivalry is actually between the U.S. and Canada dating back to a two-day match held in September 1844 at St George’s Cricket Club in Manhattan.
The contest, dubbed the Auty Cup, had such a lasting appeal that Canada’s first prime minister John A. Macdonald declared cricket as the country’s first official sport in 1867.
Cricket, of course, fell right down the pecking order of sports in North America, but hopes are high of a comeback through a current rejuvenation in U.S. cricket. Amid this revival, the Auty Cup is set to return in July after a four-year hiatus.
The three-match 50-over series between July 26 and 30 will be played in Canada, with a venue to be determined pending clearance from Canadian health authorities. The series will mark a return to international cricket for the countries since the Covid-19 pandemic and also serves as a vital opportunity to renew this rivalry between neighbors.
USA Cricket chief executive Iain Higgins told me late last year that is was vital for the U.S. to have rivalries and relationships with nearby countries. It has forged closer ties with Cricket West Indies – one of just 12 Full Members in the sport’s rather elitist tiered system – and together they will jointly bid for the 2026 or 2030 T20 World Cup.
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“We want to build a local rivalry with Canada which I think will help build wider interest and also ensure regular cricket between the two countries,” he told me in September.
“The West Indies are close to us in the region and we have great relations with them. It is important to grow the game in the broader Americas region and hopefully we can replicate the Asia Cup down the track.”
Cricket Canada and USA Cricket are also discussing whether the rivalry can include regular fixtures between their women and youth teams.
The developments continue the momentum for cricket in the U.S. having ended a difficult 2020 with a number of high-profile announcements, which attracted considerable buzz worldwide.
The announcements continued on Tuesday with USA Cricket chair Paraag Marathe re-elected as chairman. Marathe is a stalwart at the San Francisco 49ers and its current executive vice president of football operations. He was also recently appointed as vice-chairman of Leeds United in the English Premier League.
“I am honored to continue my role as an independent director for USA Cricket and chair of the board as we continue to build on the significant, foundational progress made over the last two years in collaboration with my colleagues on our board and the wider community,” Marathe said in a press release.
“There is no doubt that the last 12 months have been a very challenging period, not just for USA Cricket, but the world as a whole.
“I remain confident that the developments we have made off the field, where we have navigated the continued uncertainties of the Covid-19 landscape, will enable us to make great progress on the field in 2021 and deliver upon our key priorities.”
Under the leadership of Marathe and Higgins, USA Cricket seemingly has more gravitas and the building blocks look in place for this untapped goldmine to finally be properly utilized.
“We have some ambitious objectives, including pursuing the opportunity to host global events, seeking cricket’s inclusion in the Los Angeles 2028 Olympics and establishing a professional Twenty20 league played in world class cricket venues across the country,” he said.
“But we are also conscious of the need to invest our time and resources into growing areas that have to some extent been neglected for many years, in particular around youth development and engaging women and girls in all aspects of the sport.”
Marathe, who had no interest in cricket as a youngster despite being a passion of his India-born father, told me late last year that the “captivating” bat and ball sport had quickly won him over.
“I take on this role in a new sport in the U.S. with a full-hearted passion. I want us to succeed,” he told me in December.
“There is a lot of things I could do with my free time but I want to do this.”
Source: Forbes – Business