Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Cricket's lost Bastions-Nations where cricket was popular at one time

Cricket as a sport is limited to few nations. For many year there were no particular efforts to take it to new areas. It was after the 1996 World Cup that ICC has taken some good initiatives to take cricket to new nations. Though they have not been perfect and many shortcomings have been there but there are many success stories to be proud of.

Having said cricket at many stages had many chances where the state the game could have been different. There are many countries where cricket could have been a major game but it missed out. The reasons have been many
  1. ICC being formed as Imperial Cricket Conference and shutting itself to countries outside the commonwealth
  2. The length of the game was also a limitation as only Test Match was the format
  3. Rigid rules of cricket controlled by MCC who under colonial influence wanted to keep the game to gentlemen as per its definition. This literally shut any scope of innovations
  4. The local factors in the country
  5. The weather limitations
In many countries some or the most factors literally killed the game. The country whose name comes top of the list and if it was there in cricket list then the dynamics of the game would have been much difference- Yes talking about USA


Cricket was once the most popular game in the country. Infact the first international match was played between USA and Canada and it was so popular that in 1800's around 10000 people attended that game. However around the civil war a game very similar to cricket- Rounder & Baseball started to become popular. Baseball was easier to play as it just required a bat and ball and a ground while cricket required a proper pitch.
Also cricket was played by the elite and soon baseball started to emerge as the game of the masses. Cricket had its pockets but then 2 things happened. ICC was formed in 1965 and since US was a non commonwealth nation the game was shut for it. This meant no tours of counties or MCC. Secondly the pockets where Elite played the game soon started to shift towards Golf and Tennis. Hence sadly the game which was very popular soon lost out there.

Now recently with people from South Asia, Caribbean & UK, Aus coming to USA brought the game along with them and game has seen a resurgence. Cricket is a fast growing sport but if in peak times it was 1000 now it is 1. Even if it reaches 100 that would do a sea of good for the games. Hopefully over time the game will see better management by USACA and game improves


Cricket was declared as national game by the first prime minister of Canada. As already mentioned Canada was the first nation to play an international match of cricket. However the game in Canada was tied to rivalry with USA. As the game declined in USA, the same happened in Canada too. Also weather also played some part in the decline of the game.
Like USA, the game has seen a resurgence. In fact after 1979 Canada qualified for the world cup in 2003, then 2007 and 2011. Also the whole team in now on contracts showing the game is coming back. However there is still long way to go.


Before independence the games dominated all the newspaper. At once time Malaya had defeated the visiting Australians. In the limited sports culture in the country the game had good enough mind share. Malaysia was admitted to ICC as an associate after 1965 when ICC changed from Imperial to International.
By that time the game had lost a lot and never recovered to old levels. There were other causes for game not becoming popular. Whenever cricket was taken to any country it was played by british only. Over time the Elite of that country also started playing the games. In England, Aus, NZ, Zim or SA it is still the European that played the game. In India and Indian sub continent we had Kings, Nawabs, Raja, Zamindar etc who were the Indian Elite. They played along with the British and after they left continued to play. Hence the culture of the game continued and soon masses picked the game in all the 4 Test Nations of Indian Sub Continent.
In Malaysia there was no such elite and hence when the Britishers left suddenly no one was there to continue the tradition and we had an Broken Arrow.
With cricket again getting globalized and T20 the new format to expand the game, the game like most part of the world is seeing some resurgance. The MCA has also a vision to get Malaysia ODI status by 2020 and recent performances of Malaysia have been encouraging. They came 3rd in ACC trophy narrowly loosing to both the Finalists by single digits. Also the junior program has been rekindled. FInally MCA has got 4 sponsorships. Lets hope they regain the interest of Olden times

Cricket was once a very popular game in the Island Nations. The Fiji team used to regularly play against the various teams from New Zealand and it was a event always in news. Infact the Indian and West Indian teams had played against the Fiji teams in Fiji on route to play Australia. However been a small nation and having smaller population meant that the level of cricket team would have been on lower side as compared to the test nations. This factor over time lead to less teams touring or inviting Fiji. Meanwhile Rugby started to gain in Fiji and Fiji had a good international standing in the same. Cricket's loss was Rugby's gain in Fiji.
Also the game of cricket was surprisingly played the indigenous community while the Indians preferred Soccer. Over time the locals realized they have built more suitable for Rugby and much easier for them to perform and while the Indian community continued with Soccer itself.
Over time the game of cricket has picked up very well in Pacific with PNG, Vanuatu, Samoa, Tonga and Cook Islands improving every year while Fiji has seen a downfall. They have now lost the spot of number 4 (Behind Aus, NZ and PNG) to number with Vanuatu replacing them. Lets see if the game of cricket which has a resurgance in Pacific also has one in Fiji too.


Surprised to hear this name. Do people know that the Burma team had defeated the Ceylon team once in 1927 IIRC. Though both teams were made of Britishers but so was the case in every country at that time. The game was started and played by Britishers and then taken over by the higher class of local and then eventually going to the locals.
But in Burma the elite of locals were Indians. Indians formed a majority in capital Rangoon. The local Burmese really resented them. The Indians had taken the game, however over time the political situation changed. First the Japanese captured Burma in 1941. They started to discriminate against the Indians. The Indians started to leave. Then when British drove out the Japanese then it was almost certain that they will grant independence to Burma.
The Burma independence was not like the one in South Asia where the subsequent government maintained good relations. The British and Indians both were hated hence cricket also became a victim. Burma chose not to join the Commonwealth and hence ICC got out of question. Burma then further went into isolation and socialism and game of cricket, its clubs all started to lose out. Hence over time the game of cricket was killed
If Burma somehow had managed to go on the lines of South East Asia then surely the large impact of Indian Diaspora and its neighbours India and Bangladesh would have made sure that the game of cricket is alive and kicking and Burma would have been a different cricket power
Over time with globalization and Burmese who have studies abroad and in India, the game of Cricket has started to come back. A movie on lines of famous Indian movie "Lagaan" name "Bo Ba" was also made and was hugely popular. Presently probably Burma is the weakest of all cricket teams but cricket surely is making a comeback. Lets hope over time they come out as a strong contendor.

Some more nations where Cricket got a head start but could not capitalize were
1. Argentina
2. Netherlands
3. Denmark
4. Italy

If the game of cricket would have been alive and kicking in these nations then globally the scene could have been different. The hard work ICC has to do now is because 80 years was lost as cricket was kept in a cocoon. To cover these 80 years would take at least 20 to 30 more years to make cricket a truly global sport. Lets hope it happens in the best and most sustainable way.


  1. Comments by reader even critical are appreciated. These really help me improve

  2. Good one..what about singapore and Uruguay

  3. @Mihir:- Yes definitely Singapore and also Argentina is what I have to explain, that will come in part 2 of the blog. I do not know much about Uruguay. Let me read into the same. Thanks for the info

  4. Around the start of the 20thC cricket was probably on a par with football (soccer) in global popularity largely because the same British expats who played football also played cricket in the same clubs.

    The imperial in ICC is one of several reasons cricket failed to take off. Others that come to mind.

    Entrepreneurism. If you read football histories they talk extensively about pro football tours (Everton, Southampton, etc.) to the continent (Europe) and South America in the off-season. Cricket didn't have that, pro cricketers toured the colonies, and a lot of the places football succeeded in were in winter in the off-season. The USA had several MCC tours, but in late September, whereas the antipodes got October-March (the Australian summer).

    Elitism. Or why cricket succeeded in colonies and not independent nations. This is particularly true for the USA (see Tom Melville's book). People play sport to associate socially; in the colonies playing cricket meant associating with your (British) rulers; in other parts of the world (the Netherlands is still like this) it meant associating with anglo-philes who wanted to be a bastion of Englishness in a foreign world, and made no effort to promote the sport. Even today the opposite occurs: playing cricket means associating with sub-continental emigrants on the lower rungs of a social ladder, who again, want to maintain their uniqueness and culture.

    Cricket is a great sport though, it will get there, though whether tests will ever be universally played, or just die out is a question.

  5. Please add the Bahamas to this. It used to be extremely popular there.