Cricket season opens in Chicago


The Bear's Jay Cutler shows off his cricket chops in England. (Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune 2011)

"Cricket is the only sport in the world that has gentlemanly conduct written into the laws. Part of my gospel is: It's the game first; then it's the team; then it's the player. You're last. And don't ever forget it." (Smithsonian Magazine/October, 2006)

According to Smithsonian Magazine, before baseball, cricket was America's national pastime. Cricket was mentioned as far back as 1709. The first public mention of cricket in the United States was in a 1751 newspaper article. The first international sporting event in the modern world was a cricket match between Canada and the United States in 1844.

Abraham Lincoln attended a cricket match in Chicago in 1849. The Smithsonian states that by the mid 1800's over 10,000 people were playing the game and it had mass appeal. Baseball would eventually replace cricket as Americas national pastime.

Cricket, like baseball, has eleven man teams, bats, and balls. The rules are different and the game appears much harder to play. There is one other similarity. A good bowler (pitcher) can lob a ball at 95 mph, the same as a baseball.

For more information on the history, evolution, rules, and play you can read the Smithsonian article or go to Wikipedia.

A few years ago I read about cricket leagues playing in Washington Park. Most are made up of Pakistani, Indian, Australia, New Zealand, other south Asian countries, and Caribbean countries. Most, if not all, are former British Commonwealth nations.

The game evolved from a gentleman's game of rectitude to allowable trash talking called sledging. In enlightened nations, where sports gambling is legal, cricket is a favored betting sport. There are several online gaming sites that take wagers on cricket matches.

A recent email press release announced the opening of cricket season this week.

There are two major leagues in the Chicago area, The Midwest Cricket Conference and The American Cricket Conference. They play all over Chicagoland. City games are held in Washington Park, which is the only Chicago park to have dedicated cricket pitches (fields). Other games are held in Glendale Heights, Hanover Park, Carol Stream, Barrington, and Addison, among others.

The photo gallery is a game between the MWCA Dragons and the Hustle XI.

A member of the Dragons tried to explain the game and rules. I was confused. One thing he did repeat several times is cricket is not like baseball. A match can last for four or five hours, with a one half hour break. There were four other matches scheduled for the morning and afternoon at Washington Park.

For schedules see the websites above.





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