When Anwer Hossain moved to New York City as a young child from Pakistan, he searched all over New York for a place to play his country’s beloved sport: cricket.
But it wasn’t as easy as he thought to find one.
“I used to love [playing] it as a child,” Hossain said. “I started searching for teams in New York, but it was really difficult to find one.”
That soon changed, as Hossain is now a part of the New York Cricket League and the Commonwealth Cricket League, currently playing for Castle Hill Cricket Club.
The sport of cricket is a way for immigrants- mostly from the West Indies and parts of Asia- to feel at home in America. Lately, more and more opportunities have been popping up for those looking to play the game, according to Hossain and cricket promoters.
Eric Ferrier, who founded the New York Softball Cricket League, said it was hard to round up members across the state when he was starting the organization.
But Ferrier, who is of Guyanese descent, boasts that today the league has nearly 2,500 players in Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx and Long Island.
He credits a lot of the success to word-of-mouth promotion from the league’s current players.
And although word of mouth is important to the game’s recent growth, some believe a lot of credit also belongs to the NYPD’s annual cricket tournament.
The tournament, which has been going on for about six years, is hosted in either Queens or the Bronx every year for players ranging from 14-19 years old. This year’s tournament was played in Flushing. Its aim is to develop a relationship with the city’s immigrant community.
“We do a lot of outreach work with the new immigrant community,” said Sgt. Adeel Rana, who founded the tournament.
Rana said, despite the improvements in the sport’s popularity, there is still much to do when it comes to the fields in which the sport is played.
“I think one of the top priorities should be creating more fields,” Rana said. “Every park has a baseball field, but not a lot have cricket fields.”
Those concerns have the opportunity to be addressed if Councilmember Ruben Wills’ proposed bill to create a cricket task force to help promote the sport is passed. Wills’ bill has been introduced to the City Council, but has yet to be voted on.
“I support [the bill]. The politicians are very important to getting things done,” Rana said.
While he is optimistic for the sport’s future, Hossain noted that cricket still has a way to go before it can become a mainstream American sport.
“I love the sport. I would do anything for it,” Hossain said. But he added, “It’s going to be really difficult to reach that point.”