Home Voorhees News Cricket struggles to gain foothold in South Jersey

Cricket struggles to gain foothold in South Jersey

Game has yet to be embraced locally despite June's World Cup

Taja Johnson/The Sun
Cricket coach Aarav Jain (second from right), founder of the South Jersey Cricket Association, and some teammates strike a pose during a cricket practice session.

While an interntional audience is in the fever grip of cricket with the impending World Cup in June, South Jersey is grappling with how to promote and grow the sport among local youth.

Comparisons between cricket and America’s favorite pastime, baseball, are common. Both sports involve innings, bats and balls. In cricket, hitting the ball for a “sixer” earns the game’s batting team six runs, a notable difference from baseball home runs.

Cricket is played with a bat and ball and pits two teams of 11 players each against each other on an oval-shaped grass field. The heart of the action unfolds on a flat strip of ground called a cricket pitch that is 22 yards long. At each end of the pitch stands a set of three vertical wooden stakes, called stumps, topped by two smaller pieces called bails. Together, they form what’s known as a wicket.

The World Cup is set to be jointly hosted by the West Indies and the U.S. from June 1 to 29. The tournament marks a significant milestone: It will be the first time matches are played in America as part of an International Cricket Council (ICC) World Cup event and the first time matches will be held outside of the West Indies within the U.S.

But expanding interest in the sport locally has been a challenge, according to Coach Aarav Jain, 19, founder of the South Jersey Cricket Association (SCJA) and a Voorhees resident. The group has been actively promoting youth cricket in the area since its inception in 2017, but obtaining ground permits is among persistent challenges.

“When we tried to get a ground permit, they said it is first come, first served,” Jain explained.

He also emphasized the need for awareness in driving cricket participation.

“I think a lack of knowledge isn’t there because people know cricket,” Jain noted. “I think it is just not knowing where to go, and maybe not being known on the news, because we have the World Cup coming up.

“I find out it’s mostly South Asians who want to go to the World Cup,” Jain added. “I think we have to have someone telling people that there is a World Cup coming up, so there can be more people aware.”

Among Jain’s strategies to enhance cricket’s visibility and attract more youth to the sport is community engagement.

“We need to let people know that World Cup is coming up,” he said. “Wouldn’t you want to practice with us and see what cricket is?”

Addressing misconceptions about cricket, Jain emphasized its differences with baseball, including simplicity and a shorter format. He shares success stories of youth engagement through initiatives like the New Jersey Royals Academy and underscores the game’s role in combating rising youth obesity by promoting physical activity.

The coach has also called for greater involvement from community organizations and schools, citing the example of cricket as a school activity in Edison.

Aarush Jain, a 15-year-old student at Voorhees Middle School who is Aarav’s brother and a keen cricket player, discussed the sport he loves and his sentiments on the World Cup.

“I play all positions, both as a batter and a bowler,” he noted of his adaptability on the cricket field. “The World Cup will be interesting to watch, especially seeing the matches unfold here in our own country.

“Cricket isn’t widely recognized here, so it’s nice to see its popularity spreading.”

Looking ahead, Aarav Jain is optimistic about the future of the game in South Jersey.

“Watch the World Cup,” he recommends, “because it’s the first time it’s in the USA. It’s coming to the Olympics, too.”

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