Ajinkya Rahane of India hits during a recent cricket match against the West Indies in St. Lucia. (RANDY BROOKS/AFP/Getty Images)
Ajinkya Rahane of India hits during a recent cricket match against the West Indies in St. Lucia. (RANDY BROOKS/AFP/Getty Images)

MIAMI (Diya TV) — One of India’s most storied cricket franchises have arrived stateside in an effort to popularize the sport on U.S. soil — the squad will square off in a match against West Indies, the current T20 champions.

The occasion marks the first time competitive international cricket has been played in the U.S., an initiative put forth by the collaborative efforts of India’s Board of Cricket Control and the West Indies Cricket Board.

India-West Indies is a world-class match-up, and local cricket aficionados are hopeful this weekend’s games are indicative that baseball’s older cousin is gaining a foothold in South Florida’s crowded sports scene.

“If you’re a cricket fan, this is what you dream of watching, especially if you are a resident of the United States. You rarely get games of this nature outside of the cricketing nations,” said Jamaican-born Mark Johnson, a long-time Broward County resident who played for the U.S. national team. “People from around the world will be tuned in just to see the guys that they see on TV day to day. We’ll be able to see them live in person.”

India, who recently emerged victorious in a set against West Indies in the Caribbean in Test cricket, the purest form of the game, are currently ranked No. 2 behind New Zealand in T20. Despite their reigning champion status, West Indies are ranked No. 3.

Unlike Test cricket matches, which can sometimes last for days at a time, T20 matches are contested in roughly three hours.

“India is like a rock a star of cricket. It’s a unique opportunity,” said Rizwan Mohammed, of Parkland, who grew up playing the game in his native India and at 49 still competes in a South Florida league. “I’ve been living in this country for 28 years and it’s the first time that I’ve had the opportunity for the rock star to come play in front of you.”

On their day off, the Indian Cricket Team decided to test their skills in a more popular American sport — basketball.

With the NBA’s Miami Heat playing host, members of the cricket team — Ravichandran Ashwin, Shikhar Dhawan and Bhuvneshwar Kumar — participated in a shoot-around with Tyler Johnson and Briante Weber of the Heat.

“It was great to see these guys and learn about their game. I was impressed with the facilities here and it was a learning experience for me to see the amount of technology being used in sports science,” Kumar said.

Shikhar Dhawan (right), Ravichandran Ashwin (centre) and Bhuvneshwar Kumar (left) at Miami Heats' home ground.
Shikhar Dhawan (right), Ravichandran Ashwin (centre) and Bhuvneshwar Kumar (left) at Miami Heats’ home ground.


They were taken around the locker room, gymnasium and the recuperation center before indulging in a brief bout of play between the five of them.

Shikhar and Bhuvneshwar were chatting up with the hosts, while Ashwin seemed to have gone back to his school days of playing basketball.

“I’ve played a bit of Basketball during my school days so that got me really excited while I tried my hand again after so many years. I am thankful to both Weber and Johnson for taking time out and showing us around their home turf,” Ashwin said.


Believe it or not, there are a surplus of ex-pats from cricket-playing nations in South Florida who get the appeal. For U.S.-bred sports fans, cricket is largely an enigma with recognition limited to the game being sort of like baseball.

While soccer is widely observed as the undisputed sport of the world, cricket often ranks second or third of the lists of most nations, ahead or after basketball. Cricket itself is deeply rooted in the sports history and fabric of the U.S. as well — the sport’s very first international contest was played between the U.S. and Canada in the 1800s.

That match, in Manhattan, N.Y., in 1844, is recognized as the first sporting competition between nations in modern times by various sources, including the Smithsonian, more than 50 years before the rebirth of the Olympics. There were about 10,000 spectators with considerable wagering on the outcome. The U.S. won 165-42.

Further, evidence exists to suggest cricket was played in Colonial America as early as the 1700s. It was a popular game among the troops at Valley Forge during the Revolutionary War, there even exist accounts of George Washington himself being a cricketer.

The preference didn’t turn to baseball until after the Civil War, cricket took hold elsewhere, mainly in places with historical ties to the British Empire.

The principals of cricket are simple — score runs by batting the ball. The ball, which is pitched or bowled on a bounce, moves toward a batter at the same speed an MLB pitcher hurls. Instead of four bases there are two wickets bracketing a rectangular 22-yard-long dirt pitch at the center of an oval ground.

The 11 fielders on defense have a multitude of options to get batters out, including striking the wicket behind the batsman with a bowled ball or catching a batted ball on the fly. The batsman remains in his position until he’s retired, or dismissed, and as displayed by the match between the U.S. and Canada, runs can accumulate quickly if he or she gets on a roll.

The International Cricket Council aren’t sure what to expect by bringing the game to the U.S., however, they hope to grow the game in the States regardless. Evolution for USA Cricket faces several hurdles as the team was suspended by the ICC more than a year ago. Although allegations of wrongdoing have not been substantiated, the sanction has not been lifted.