Thursday, June 13, 2024

New Yorkers are waking up to cricket. Local fans say it’s about time.

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Some local cricket fans are fired up to see the sport make headlines after the U.S. team beat Pakistan in a stunning upset at the International Cricket Council Men’s Twenty20 World Cup last week.

The U.S. team plays India on Wednesday morning on Long Island.

“Oh man, a shocking experience,” said Clyde Mercury of the U.S. team’s win.

Two members of the U.S. cricket team

Courtesy of the International Cricket Council

Mercury is originally from Trinidad and Tobago. He’s lived in New York for years but had never really followed the U.S. team.

“I never knew they had a good team like that,” Mercury said. “This was the first time I saw them play.”

The United States is co-hosting the event for the first time in history, which earned its team an automatic berth in the tournament.

The International Cricket Stadium on Long Island was built just for this tournament.

Courtesy of the International Cricket Council

In New York, matches are being held on Long Island at a stadium just a few miles from the Queens County line.

World Cup matches are also being played in Texas, Florida and several Caribbean countries.

People watch cricket at the North Oculus Plaza.

Photo by Ryan Kailath / Gothamist

On Monday morning, about a dozen fans were gathered at the fan park near the World Trade Center to watch the Bangladesh-South Africa match.

More than a few passersby stopped briefly to see what the commotion was about as the match was broadcast on huge speakers that echoed around the plaza.

Dylan Mazzilli was among the attendees, though he said he isn’t a sports fan at all. But the 20-something Italian finance worker got into cricket last year after his colleagues’ enthusiasm won him over.

“Omar, Riz, they’re all great; they’re all from Pakistan,” Mazzilli said. “Italy, I don’t even know if we have a team. But I follow Pakistan, I follow India.”

“I’ve never even followed soccer,” Mazzilli said. “So my siblings were surprised when they saw me watching cricket games on my time off, on the weekends.”

The U.S. team, which is playing in the T20 tournament for the first time, includes several Indian and West Indian members and includes professional cricketers as well as temporary workers on H1-B visas, who work full-time white collar jobs.

Members of the U.S. cricket team

Courtesy of the International Cricket Council

The India vs. Pakistan match held in Nassau County on Sunday was the most-attended international cricket match in U.S. history, with more than 34,000 spectators.

Chicagoan Mohit Ahmed flew in for the game. Ahmed attended regular stadium matches while growing up in Pakistan, but had never seen Pakistan play India live, as political tensions have kept the countries from hosting one another for years.

“It was an amazing experience, unreal, electric,” Ahmed said. “How cool to be here and be able to go to that when it’s not really possible at home. It’s a great opportunity for all of us who are staying here in the U.S.A.”

Clyde Mercury supports the West Indies team, which has won two matches so far this World Cup, but said he’d support the United States if his team ends up knocked out.

Players from team India in a huddle.

Courtesy of the International Cricket Council

“Not in football,” Mercury said, laughing. “But I’ll go support them in cricket.”

The U.S. upset might be the catalyst the country needs to spark a new cricket fanbase, said James Coyne, deputy editor of The Cricketer, a U.K.-based magazine.

“The publicity for this is going to make a big difference,” Coyne said. “Then again, you already have a bat and ball sport in this country. So is there room for another one?”

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