"Cricket in America" review
The recently released “Cricket in America” documentary is a bit of a puzzle. Whilst it purports to provide an insight into the unique history of cricket in the USA and an exploration of cricket's potential in the country, it achieves neither of those goals.
What it actually intends to do is to advertise cricket to potential sponsors. However even in this aspect, it doesn't completely achieve the required aims.
On the history front, the documentary crams it all into less than five minutes. The first USA v Canada match in New York in 1844 is mentioned, as is the first tour anywhere by an English team in 1859 and a couple of other early tours, but that's it as far as history is concerned. There is no mention of the golden age of Philadelphian cricket, nor is there a mention of Bart King, the greatest player the country has ever produced.
Even the recent history of the game is ignored, though given that includes two suspensions from the ICC and a decline in the ranking position of the USA it isn't surprising when you consider that the documentary has been made in association with the USACA and the ICC. The Compton Cricket Club in Los Angeles, in this writers opinion one of the best development initiatives anywhere in the world, also goes unmentioned. Indeed, the documentary gives the impression that there was no cricket at all from the late 19th century up until the last couple of years.
The ICC's involvement gives the clue behind the intended purpose of the documentary. David Morgan, the outgoing ICC president, gives in his interview the familiar refrain that the USA and China are “target markets” for the ICC. He also mentions the need to develop the game amongst the non-immigrant population, and this brings us to the next problem with the documentary.
Throughout, it is made abundantly clear to any Americans watching that cricket is a game for foreigners. Indeed, of all players interviewed, only one actually has an American accent, but his name makes his background clear.
The non-immigrant population is interviewed, though most hardly leave a good impression. The first person interviewed is an American youngster who confuses cricket with lacrosse (ironic, as lacrosse is one of only two sports actually invented in the US) and many other Americans interviewed know nothing about cricket – one of whom is a sports reporter for Fox Sports.
Americans who do know the game are interviewed though, including people involved with the New York Public Schools Athletic League who introduced cricket as a sport in New York schools a couple of years ago, and Raymond Kelly, commissioner of the NYPD, who helps organise a cricket tournament for the various immigrant communities in New York. Kelly says what many Americans say about cricket – that he found it surprisingly entertaining.
There is a brief look at the current US national side, with footage of the World Twenty20 qualifier match against Afghanistan being shown, as well as (riot free) footage from WCL5 in Nepal. A handful of players are interviewed. Steve Massiah and Lennox Cush both talk about the problems of balancing their cricket careers with a full time job, mentioning the desire for cricket to turn professional.
On those lines, there is a rather pointless interview with Dallas Cowboys defensive end Marcus Spears on the benefits of playing professional sport, and a more interesting look at the way the US develops players through the college system. There is a brief mention of the US College Cricket Championship (won this year by a Canadian university), but it ignores the fact that it isn't currently sanctioned by the NCAA.
The person interviewed most throughout the documentary is USACA CEO Don Lockerbie. In his interview he gives the phrases used so often in the documentary - “Baseball is short, now cricket has a shorter format”, “hoping to attract sponsors”, “cricket can be played year round in the USA”, “anything can happen in America”, etc. The financial aspect is mentioned so often, I was half expecting to see dollar signs in David Morgan's eyes.
Anyone watching the documentary will be left with one conclusion – cricket has potential to make money in America, but only from the immigrant communities in the short term. There is the indication that long term growth is starting, especially when Lockerbie talks about trying to persuade the Under-19 team to stay in cricket, looking ahead to using most of them at the 2015 World Cup, should the USA qualify.
The story of cricket in the USA would indeed make for an interesting documentary, but this isn't it. It's worth a watch to see the thinking of administrators, and you may learn something, but this isn't really made for the general public – it's a fifty minute advert.