Taking a Swing at Cricket: The Sport’s American Revolution

India Asia

Cricket, the famous sport from the United Kingdom popular in former colonized countries like India, Pakistan, and South Africa is now setting its feet firmly in the United States. Many people in the United States now enjoy playing and watching the sport of cricket, especially keeping up with the World Cup and Indian Premier Leagues – the most popular cricket leagues worldwide.

The sport is especially gaining steam and popularity in Texas. A large South Asian diaspora is located in the Houston and Dallas area, bringing with them their favorite sport, which has flourished among the Lone Star State's competitive spirit. The sport is gaining popularity not just in Texas but also in the nation's capital, Washington, DC. American and Georgetown University have established their very own cricket clubs, introducing the sport to many American students. Sarthak Jain, an international student from India at American University said in an interview with East-West Center in Washington Young Professional Shubhankar Agarwal, “Being part of AU Cricket Club is a culturally enriching experience. Our practice sessions draw curious onlookers, sparking conversations and hands-on cricket experiences. Playing with other universities in the DMV area promotes cultural exchange, bridging gaps between Indians and Americans through sport.

Unexpectedly, the bat-ball-and-wicket sport of cricket – which is scarcely known by most Americans, arrived in North America through the establishment of British colonies as early as the 18th century. The end of British rule led to a decline in enthusiasm for cricket. After revisions to immigration laws in the 1960s drew thousands of skilled employees from South Asian nations to the United States, the sport was re-introduced in the country’s coastal neighborhoods that became home to these new immigrants.

At the Grand Prairie Stadium in Texas, the first-ever professional cricket match in the country took place on July 30, 2023. Tanweer Ahmed, the owner of the Grand Prairie Stadium, noted that cricket, which has over a billion supporters worldwide, is the second-most prominent sport in the world, with more than half of its followers being from the Indian diaspora.

South Asians, including Indians, Pakistanis, as well as other South Asians, constitute the fastest-growing community in the United States today, numbering 5.4 million. Texas is home to the second-largest South Asian community in the United States, only behind California.

Cricket is drastically undervalued in the recreational scene here in the United States. Joe Pompliano, a sports businessperson, and investor, ranked cricket as the second-most-watched sport on the globe during a show on his podcast "The Joe Pomp Show." According to him, India is the cricket industry's largest market, with close to 550 million fans. According to the data, China is the second-largest cricket market, with 408 million people exhibiting interest in the sport each year. The United States comes in third place, with 63 million cricket fans.

Major League Cricket (MLC) is the most recent and the most successful attempt to establish the sport of cricket here in the United States. There also has been a website launched that covers all the cricket matches taking place in the country. Cricket in the United States not only brings cultural and entertainment aspects but also increases economic ties between the United States and some Indo-Pacific countries. Many South Asians, including West Indians, who call America home, are a large enough community to entice MLC participants among the diaspora and abroad. In return, the newly formed league has begun attracting tourists who rarely would have visited America to play or watch cricket.

The increase in cricket's popularity in the United States, particularly in Texas, signifies the sport's rising influence on both culture and economics, which strengthens relations with countries in the Indo-Pacific region, particularly India. As the sport continues to unify people from all backgrounds and draw new fans, it also offers special prospects for international engagement and tourism to the United States.

Shubhankar Agarwal is a Young Professional at the East-West Center in Washington, DC. He is a graduate student at American University’s School of International Service, where he is focusing on global governance, economic, and gender issues in the Indo-Pacific region.