man in cricket game
A wave of South Asian workers who immigrated during the tech boom of the late ‘80s and ‘90s helped revive the sport in the U.S. Credit: Anil Sharma

For the first time in history, the United States is hosting a significant cricket competition: the International Cricket Council (ICC) Men’s T20 World Cup. And it’s being held just a few miles outside of Queens, in East Meadow, Nassau County. 

One of its most anticipated matches — India vs. Pakistan — will be hosted there, a short drive away from the hub of India’s largest diaspora. 

“These games are big rivalry games — people play premium money for it!” said Anoop Nair, whose high hopes for India vs. Pakistan tickets were felled when he, like millions of others, weren’t chosen for the lottery to buy tickets for that game. He bought tickets to the next India game he could get: India v. Ireland. 

The proximity to these matches may not feel significant to those unfamiliar with the sport, but for many Southeast Asian, Black Caribbean, and Indo-Caribbean communities, being this close brings them a connection to their homeland. While cricket is a new sport to some New Yorkers, for countries with a shared history of colonization, it’s a nexus to home.

“This is the first time it’s happening in the States, especially in New York — and most of the Desi community, everybody is here,” Nair said. “It’s a huge community, and they all want to see it.” 

For Nair, who’s originally from Kerala, India, that link is close to his home here, too. 

“The stadium is just like five minutes from my house — it’s on the street where I live!” he told Epicenter NYC, laughing. “It’s right in East Meadow — I go to [Eisenhower] Park with the kids all the time!”

The Caribbean cricket connection

Cricket was a popular sport in England in the 1700s. It later gained a stronghold in the West Indies, first among British plantation owner’s sons, and then, once inter-colonial tournaments began in the early 1900s, among Black Caribbeans too. Some of them, like Barbadian cricketers Frank Worrell and Garfield Sobers, became icons of the sport shortly before their countries became independent.  

During this decolonization period, the pride underlying West Indies cricket was palpable – so was the tension. Players from their colonizer country called them “calypso cricketers,” barely more than a joke. But under a new cricket captainship, Caribbean players were reinventing their approach to the game, building the kind of skill, discipline, and strategy that made them a force. 

The field imitated life. The West Indies cricket team, nicknamed “The Windies,” a predominantly Black men’s team representing countries across the Caribbean, were a decolonizing force in the ‘60s and ‘70s. In the sport, the tension was on overboil. To people whose history of enslavement was tied to British riches, their English rivals’ attitudes and use of subjugating language in their braggadocio — like, famously, “make them grovel” — made cricket much more than a game. 

man playing cricket
Despite its popularity among international communities, cricket has not yet made inroads in the U.S. Credit: Phalansh Eeshev

The Windies won the first cricket World Cup in England in 1975, and retained their crown in 1979. Often referred to as the “Empire of Cricket,” the team proceeded to dominate the game for decades.   

An underdog sport in the U.S.

There’s something about a cricket field being built near your home that elicits a deeper sense of belonging, especially for diaspora communities. That’s what Martin Barrett, a cricket researcher (and former professional cricket player from England), found with South Asian immigrants in Morrisville, North Carolina, the site of a recently expanded Major League Cricket stadium

“It was fascinating to talk to people saying that they were so amazed to be playing on a quality of pitch like that, and they didn’t think that they’d be doing that in America, of all places,” Barrett said. 

Much like some of the communities where cricket is so popular, the sport itself has been marginalized in the U.S., experts say. While a wave of South Asian workers who immigrated during the tech boom of the late ‘80s and ‘90s helped revive the sport, Barrett says it has “existed in the margins of society.” 

This marginalization is even in the matting, the artificial mats for practice and matches: “I’ve seen cricket matches being played in between the sidelines of two soccer fields,” Barrett said. “I’ve seen folks transport a roll-out, temporary matting from field to field. They take it, they roll it out, they peg it down, and they play it wherever they can.”

But now, it’s becoming less rare to see cricket-specific facilities, like the natural grass field at Church Street Park in Morrisville, he said.  

“I think the Major League Cricket last summer, and the upcoming T20 World Cup …. is just an additional boost and catalyst that’s feeding the growth of cricket in the U.S.,” Barrett said. “The long-term plan is to elevate that national team to the same level as India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, etc. But that will be a long road.” 

A game or a “media sport”?

Other scholars explain why cricket likely won’t reach the mainstream national popularity of other sports, like basketball, anytime soon. 

“Cricket is its own unique kind of beast in terms of being a sport,” said Daniel T. Durbin, director of the Institute of Sports, Media and Society at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. “It goes over days; it’s more of a get-together and pastime, and you’re sitting around sipping tea, watching people going at a very slow, relaxed [pace].”  

Cricket is also slow in terms of generating sustained media attention and big profits in the U.S., Durbin said: “To popularize media sports in the United States, you really push action and violence and other things that get people’s attention, and cricket is kind of not known for that.” 

When asked whether the changing immigrant landscape in the U.S. could speed up the process, Durbin pointed to soccer to explain the flaw in that logic. Soccer only became a national “media sport” in recent years.  

“Soccer in the United States should have taken off 50, 60 years ago, rather than very recently, because we had massive emigration from soccer-crazed communities and nations, and have had for ages,” Durbin said. 

cricket players wearing gear
Cricket was a popular sport in 1700s England and later gained popularity among former British colonies. Credit: Steward Masweneng

But soccer wasn’t able to break through until younger generations started following global soccer — the English Premier League and FIFA World Cup, for instance — on their phone and other streaming devices, he says. 

“Cricket has not made that inroad into the United States yet,” Durbin said. “I don’t think this [ICC Men’s T20] event will change that — I think it will be seen as a kind of a unique cricket event.”

Nair’s kids are among these youth who might or might not change the name of the game. 

“They don’t have a clue about cricket,” he said. “I mean, they watch cricket on TV, but they don’t know the game. [They think] cricket is similar to baseball, when what’s similar is you have a ball and a bat, nothing else is the same.”

While cricket isn’t as popular as baseball in the U.S., it remains a way for communities to connect to their homelands. And if you’re looking for a league to join, there are a few: 

New York City also has some city-owned cricket fields for anyone missing home who wants to pick up a game: 

Where to watch the cricket T20 World Cup with other fans:

Most people couldn’t get tickets to some of the most anticipated games. The ICC said the lottery to buy tickets for India v, Pakistan — one of the game’s fiercest rivalries — was hugely  oversubscribed

If you need a place to watch outside of the traditional sports bars that often lack diversity, here are a few spots where you can enjoy the matches with other Caribbean or South Asian cricket fans. 

  • Singh’s Roti Shop 
    • Located in Richmond Hill, Queens, Singh’s Roti Shop & Bar is known for its authentic Trinidadian cuisine, soca and chutney music, and the cricket always playing on their TV screens. 
    • So, for the World Cup, Singh’s will do cricket as usual, showing all games. 
    • Come for the cricket, stay for the roti, pelau, curry meats, and doubles. Singh’s is open daily from 5 a.m. to 9:45 p.m., and it’s the perfect place to experience the rich flavors of Trinidad and Tobago and the Caribbean community vibes of Richmond Hill. Read more about Singh’s here.
  • Rockaway Roti Shop
    • In South Ozone Park, another roti shop is showing it’s not just all fun and games — it’s also Caribbean food. Jameel “Hafeez” Ali opened Rockaway Roti Shop in 2004 to serve the increasing Guyanese population in Queens, especially in South Ozone. The restaurant specializes in both vegetarian and non-vegetarian West Indian cuisine.  
    • Read more about the shop from our media partner, Documented NY, here
  • Einstein Cricket Club, Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx
    • The Einstein Cricket Club is hosting group stage World Cup matches that feature the following teams – USA, Ireland, India, and Pakistan. They’ll be screened in one of the available auditoriums for free at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, 1300 Morris Park Ave. in the Bronx. Attendees are required to prearrange for signup by sending an email to team manager, Ritesh Aggarwal (
  • ICC Men’s T20 Cricket World Cup 2024 Fan Park
    • While this might not have the Caribbean or South Asian comradery, The World Trade Center is hosting outdoor screenings of some ICC Men’s T20 Cricket World Cup 2024 games at the North Oculus Plaza this June. You can catch the action on a big screen for 10 game days throughout the month.
    • You can also order food and drinks there from the Oculus Beer Garden and nearby shops. Prepare to paint your face with your favorite team’s colors, make signs, and even see guest appearances of cricket players and mascots. Don’t miss the cool light shows at the Oculus during the night games on June 1, 5, 8, and 11. For more details, check out the World Trade Center website here.

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1 Comment

  1. Cricket was played even in the fifties. I was playing for Pasadena Cricket club in 1959 and 1960. There were seven Cricket clubs in Southern California alone.

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