“Cricket is in my blood” say new immigrants who are expanding the game in NY and nationwide

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Jay Mir (Founder and CEO, American Premiere League) shaking hands with Gill Addeo (General Manager New Jersey Jackals) at the Historic Contract Signing Ceremony to host American Premiere League at the Yogi Berra Stadium New Jersey. Photo: courtesy American Premiere League.

On May 27, 2021, the New York State Senate approved legislation to promote and expand cricket in New York. Passed by the State House, S.146 is on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s desk, ready to become law, which will then require that cricket be included within the purview of the New York State Athletic Commission.

The mover and shaker behind this is New York State Sen. Kevin Thomas, the first Indian-American to be elected to the state’s upper house.

“The sport of cricket goes hand-in-hand with the diversity and multiculturalism of our state, which is home to a number of thriving immigrant communities who grew up playing and watching cricket,” Senator said in a press release after the bill was passed. ”I believe that New York has a unique opportunity to become the official Cricket Capitol of the U.S.A, which is why I introduced this legislation to recognize the legitimacy and value of cricket to our State.”

Thomas said he was thrilled to sponsor the legislation, “especially because so many members of the South Asian community share a love and passion for this sport.”

The USA Cricket Director for New York Ajith Bhaskar called it great news for the Empire State’s cricket ommunity. “New York already has a place in cricket history for having hosted the sport’s first international match in 1844. I am thankful to Senator Kevin Thomas for putting the spotlight on this exciting and popular sport, which will help us take the game to the next level here in New York State.”

Globally, cricket is the second most popular game after soccer with an estimated following of 2.5 billion people.

Over several years now, cricket clubs have popped up around the United States, pitches have been prepared and players recruited. Starting from neighborhood friends and informal matches, it has grown to become a serious and competitive sport with matches that pit several teams at locations in Illinois, New York, New Jersey, Florida and other states.

Not only that, cricket organizations believe they have to ‘catch’em young’ like the Tampa Cricket League which was founded in 2007, recently (May 23, 2021) held a youth camp featuring the famous former West Indies captain Shivnarine Chanderpaul, in conjunction with Sarasota International Cricket Club, to share tips and tricks. Sixty kids and their parents attended.

Sixty children and their parents attended the May 23, 2021 cricket camp in Tampa hosted by the Tampa Cricket League where the chief guest was Shivnarine Chanderpaul, the former West Indies captain. Photo: courtesy Tampa Cricket League

The new kid on the block is American Premiere League established by Jay Mir, a businessman in the tri-state area, who has quickly achieved some prominence after the launch in May.

History

The website usacricket.org says America has one of the richest cricketing histories of any country in the world, dating back over 300 years! That it predates baseball, and there are historical references to it way back in 1709 when a Virginia plantation owner William Byrd wrote about it in his diary; And no less than Benjamin Franklin brought back the ‘1744 Laws’ the rulebook for cricket from England in 1778, usacricket.org says.

That should not be surprising because the British colonized both India and the United States.

But cricket has got its biggest boost from immigrants who came to America from the South Asian Subcontinent in the more recent past. Cricket teams were formed in universities and cities, like Dartmouth, Amherst College, Mass., Philadelphia Cricket Club, to name just very few.

The National Cricket League held matches with teams from 8 states; and amateur city leagues in Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey and metropolises like New York City. The American Pro Cricket LLC emerged in 2004, notes Wikipedia; In 2011, the American Twenty20 Championship played out in New Jersey; Even regionally identified organization like the Telugu Association of North America formed the TANA Premier League and administered games around the U.S.; plus all the non-profit cricket entities like the New England Cricket Association emerged. Add to that, dedicated cricket grounds are being built in different locations.

Coming to the present, cricket tournaments were canceled or postponed in 2020 as the pandemic hit the U.S. But teams and organizers stayed in touch.

Interestingly, as more Indian-Americans get elected to public office, the profile of the game is getting a boost, such as the above-mentioned effort by New York State Sen. Kevin Thomas, which is demanding funding of the game in the state budget.

As for USA Cricket, which was organized according to regional zones – Midwest Zone, South West Zone, Mid-Atlantic Zone, West Zone etc., and on April 5, 2021, it shows on the website that teams played three matches this year. The organization had remained in touch with all the known Leagues and Academies across the U.S. during the pandemic and come Jan. 2, 2021, it announced a ‘Foundational Plan’ opening a Web portal to engage with interested parties, and hit the ground running.

The latest entity launched just this end of May, which promises to become an important one, is the American Premiere League Cricket which is holding trials in Old Bridge, N.J. to identify the best talent for the Fall tournament.

“Cricket is in my blood,” entrepreneur Jay Mir, founder and CEO of APL, told Desi Talk. Born in Lahore, Pakistan, Mir was joined by several former professional cricketers, dozens of athletic hopefuls who want to be part of the launch of American Premiere League. The APL has 7 franchises divided by regions of the world where the game is popular, including ‘America’ where it is growing.

Cricket enthusiasts see great potential in the U.S. for the growth of the game. Mir believes his effort is the first of its kind, a “truly organized effort to build momentum and take the sport into the mainstream in America,” the APL press release says.

Jay Mir(Founder & CEO) American Premiere League (Right) shaking hands with Muhammad Ali(Founder & CEO) EVO9X (Left) at the Contract Signing Ceremony at EVO9X facility in Edison New Jersey. Photo courtesy American Premiere League Twitter

A week-long tournament at Yogi Berra Stadium at Montclair State University confirmed for September “will feature the best American talent along with several international players, the APL promises.

This May 14, APL announced that Eraj Abidi, a prominent Maryland pharmaceutical executive/businessman signed an exclusive contract with APL to purchase the “Americans” franchise which will be representing the diverse cricket community in the United States.

On May 25, Michael Virk, a Pittsburgh, PA businessman, signed an exclusive contract with APL to purchase the “Windees” franchise which will represent the diverse Caribbean community in the United States.

And on May 28, APL announced Victoria Morgan, a high-level pharmaceutical executive from Northern Westchester, New York, signed an exclusive contract to purchase the “English” franchise, which will represent the English community in the United States.

“Our findings showed we had to target South Asians and other cricket-loving communities including from the Caribbean and U.K., Australia,” Mir told Desi Talk.

Mir says he has signed a three-year contract for the Jersey Jackals Stadium in Middlefalls, N.J., for cricket tournaments. “We prepared the pitch and we are going to have ex-cricketers, and we are making the same model as the Indian Premiere League,” he said.

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