For some Indian immigrants in US, cricket still is religion

Living thousands of miles away from their cricket- crazy homeland, in a country where sports is synonymous with baseball, basketball and football, Indian-Americans have not let go of their cricket heritage.

Their passion for the game is intact. And some of them are now focusing on growing cricket in the US and popularising the sport among young Americans. Manas Sahu is one such cricket fanatic who has set his sights on taking the game to the younger generation.

Sahu immigrated to the US 10 years ago from India. He captains Boston Gymkhana Club, a cricket team he joined six years ago. Last December, he took over as President of the Massachusetts State Cricket League (MSCL), the 104-year old organisation in charge of cricket in the state.

Cricket may be one of the most popular and richest sports in the world but not many in the US follow the game. "That doesn't mean cricket cannot grow here," Sahu told PTI. "The sport has a good future in this country. We have been playing cricket here because we love the game. It's time we focus on coaching the younger generation if we want cricket to grow in this country," he said.

Cricket may not have many takers in America but the game is not new to the country. The first international cricket match was played between the US and Canada in 1844 in New York. The game's popularity dwindled during the Civil War as interest in the faster-paced game of baseball grew. It saw signs of revival only around the 1960s thanks to immigrants from cricket-playing South Asian and Caribbean countries.

Today, there are 45 leagues across the country, 675 clubs and over 12,000 players, according to the USA Cricket Association, the official governing body for the sport. California, Chicago, Florida, New Jersey, New York and Texas are the main hubs for cricket.

"Cricket in the US is seen as a sport that immigrants play," Sahu says. Little surprise since the country's national cricket team is made up of players born in India, Pakistan, Jamaica and Guyana.

"Americans don't follow the sport since tournaments are not shown here on channels like ESPN," explains Sahu. "On the other hand, those who play cricket are willing to pay subscription fees to see the matches online".

The cricket infrastructure in the US is also not something to talk home about. Sahu points out that some of the grounds his teams play on do not have proper pitches. Players often rent football and baseball fields for their matches and practice in indoor baseball batting cages.

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