A neat story out of Baltimore: yesterday a young cricketer threw out at the ceremonial first pitch at the Baltimore Orioles baseball game.
Lisa Ramjit — a bowler who helped the USA National Women’s team whitewash Canada in a three match T20 series in May — was announced to applause from both the dugouts and the crowd. And then threw a strike.
Maryland is a bit of a hotbed of youth cricket, and Ramjit, 14, has been playing organized cricket since she was seven years old. Maryland’s youth cricket program is the most successful in the US, especially when it comes to girls’ participation. There are over 100 girls playing organized cricket in Maryland. Sham Chotoo and the Bowie Boys and Girls Club did it by getting into the schools, getting kids excited, and making the game accessible to all who wanted to play. It’s a pretty great success story — with Ramjit being the cherry on top — and goes to show that cricket can work in America, it just takes a little work.
It will take more than just getting kids excited, of course, you will need buy in from parents, schools and local sponsors. But it starts with the kids. The rest can follow. The blueprint here is soccer. It started as a youth sport in the 1970s ( and of course with a smattering of professional leagues that burned out and faded away, but that was more of a novelty sideshow than anything really) and then those kids — I am one of them — grew up knowing about and caring about the game and then got older and got jobs and expendable income and then the 1994 Men’s World Cup was here and the USA Women won the World Cup for the first time in 1999 and then European leagues found a home on cable television and the rest is history.
MLS’s cumulative attendance for 2019 is over 6.2 million in 297 matches. It’s apples to oranges, of course, but for comparison in 760 matches during the 2018-19 Premier League season in England the cumulative attendance was 14.5 million.
What’s next for the Ramjit and her US teammates? The Women’s T20 World Cup qualifying tournament in Scotland later this month. It’s an eight team field divided into two groups of four. The top two teams from each group play in the knock-out semi-final round, and the winners of those two matches qualify for the T20 World Cup held next year in Australia. No small prize.
The US plays a warm-up match against Thailand on August 29, then the group stage begins two days later. The other teams in US’s group are Bangladesh, Scotland and Papua New Guinea. Group B consists of Ireland, Thailand, Namibia and the Netherlands.
It’s hard to gauge the US’s chances in the tournament. They are ranked 37th in the world but have only played in four qualifying matches. To provide context, Thailand is ranked 11th but have played 40 T20s. The other teams in US’s group are ranked 9 (Bangladesh), 13 (Scotland) and 16 (PNG), but they have all played far more T20s than the US has. Either way, while the rankings are not perfect, they do show that it might be a struggle for the US to book a spot in Australia, but it’s not impossible.
And no matter what, just being there is a success story all on its own. Turn your American cricket eyes toward Maryland, as that’s where it’s all happening in youth cricket. In just seven short years, Lisa Ramjit went from a seven year old playing on converted baseball fields in Bowie, Maryland, to bowling in an ICC tournament against some of the best teams in the world. Just seven years. Remarkable. Is cricket starting to happen here? Maybe. Just maybe. And just like in soccer it’s the youth — and the women — leading the charge. I’ll take it.
Baltimore Sun article
Hat tip to Sarah Egger with the Maryland Youth Cricket Association