Why cricket failed to become popular in USA and Canada?
Over the years, many historians as well as Cricketing experts have speculated and postulated various reasons for the lack of enthusiasm for the sport in North American countries.
Updated - Aug 9, 2020 1:43 pm
Cricket is one of the most popular sports in the world presently. Despite being widely followed in only a few countries, it has a huge fan base among their population. Around 2.5 billion people across the globe watch cricket, making it the second most viewed sport after Football.
The game of cricket was invented by the British. However, unlike other sports invented by them, Cricket remained confined to only the Commonwealth countries or former British colonies. Most of the countries which follow the sport (like India, Pakistan, South Africa etc) were ruled by the English one or another time during history. The sport was brought into the given countries by the British themselves.
However, a major deviation is found in this pattern too. Canada and USA fulfill the criteria of being British colonies in the past and Canada is a part of the British Commonwealth too. However, unlike other colonies, the sport never took off in the North American nations. In this article, we will discuss the cross-national cultural diffusion of cricket with respect to its failure in USA and Canada.
A few basic concepts regarding Diffusion in Cricket
The sport of cricket was deliberately transported to the colonies as a part of the British colonial policy. In fact, according to Brian Stoddart, a cricket historian, “Cricket was considered the main vehicle for transferring the appropriate British moral code from the messengers of empire to the local populations”. The ICC, originally known as the Imperial Cricket Conference, used to admit only the Commonwealth nations to the sport until 1965, when its name was changed to International Cricket Conference.
A few misconceptions regarding the failure of Cricket in USA and Canada
Over the years, many historians as well as Cricketing experts have speculated and postulated various reasons for the lack of enthusiasm for the sport in North American countries. People have come up with many theories most of which fail to stand the test of logic and history. Some of the given misconceptions are: –
One of the most common misconceptions regarding the failed diffusion of the sport is that of the comparatively cooler climate in Canada and USA than the rest of the Cricket playing nations. However, this theory is not accurate as the Canadians, despite living in a cold-weather country, enjoy warm weather sports like baseball, hockey, football and lacrosse. Also, the progenitor of the sport, England can hardly be called a warm-weather country.
2. Inconsistency with the cultural worldview
Some people argue that Cricket isn’t popular in USA as Americans consider it a slow and tightly regimented sport while they themselves are always in a hurry and anxious for results. The given proposition might have been true for Test matches, however, the presence of limited-overs matches including T20s refutes this hypothesis.
3. Too much submission in the sport
Undoubtedly, the sport of cricket requires a lot of submission to the decisions of umpires. Swearing is not officially condoned on the field. Though Americans are widely considered as being rowdy and having less respect for rules, this explanation is also sociologically inaccurate as the Americans enjoy many similar sports like tennis and golf whilst respecting the rules. On the other hand, Canadians are considered as mild-mannered as polite, essential requisites for the sport, yet the game never took off in the great white north.
The English ruled over both Canada and the USA for a better part of their history. This perspective focuses on the negative disposition of Americans and Canadians towards the British and postulates that it is because of their aversion to the United Kingdom that they refuse to acknowledge Cricket as a proper sport.
This explanation can also be countered in many ways. For example, the Australians have a terrible history with the British with their ancestors being sent to the sea-locked country in accordance with the English Penal System. There is no reason why Canadians would have more aversion to their former colonizers than the people of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and South Africa, where arguably much more atrocities were committed. Finally, the enjoyment of other British-origin sports like tennis and golf by Americans and Canadians delivers the knockout punch to this theory.
The most logical reason for the downfall of Cricket in USA and Canada
The most logical and probable reason for the non-popularity of cricket in the North American countries is the contemporary rise of baseball. The rise of popularity of baseball and the decline are temporally consistent which marks some truth to this theory. Along with the rise of the American sport, the ‘clubby exclusiveness’ of the British elite in Canada played a major role in discouraging the younger people of the country to pursue the sport.
It can be safely said that A.G Spalding, an American businessman and sports manufacturer played a major role in closing the doors for cricket in America. His contributions towards the popularisation of baseball led to a consequent decline in cricket. On one hand, he promoted the highest possible level of play for baseball with the widest possible audience by creating and managing a system of professional leagues and commercializing the sport. On the other hand, he built a manufacturing and marketing empire that was devoted to advertise the game thoroughly and bring the game to the masses.
Cricket was increasingly projected as a feminine sport which was just a general pastime for the elites and had nothing to do with the masses of America. ‘Cricket is a pastime, Baseball is War’ became popular in USA and Canada. The addition of Baseball as a sport in colleges and sports-based scholarships along with the introduction of professional leagues dealt the final blow to cricket in both the countries.
Thus, it can be safely postulated that the rise in popularity of baseball along with the exclusionist practices of the British elite is primarily responsible for the failure of Cricket in the USA and Canada.