Book reviewed by Roger Heavens in the summer 2014 issue of ‘The Cricket Statistician’ published by ‘The Journal of the Association of Cricket Statisticians & Historians.’ Verdict – 8 (out of 10)
Although it needs a good edit to remove a number of duplicated items and correct various typos, this is one of the most interesting and thoughtful books that I have reviewed over the years. Mr. Patel was born in India, where cricket is played on every street corner (as I witnessed for myself on a recent trip to Mumbai), and on emigrating to America was disappointed to find little happening in that regard. I cannot imagine anything worse for a cricket fanatic, which is what Mr. Patel certainly is! He set about researching the history of the game on the American continent, and this book is the result.
The main text of the book deals with the origins of the game in Canada and the United States and cites most of the known early references, though in greater detail than most historical texts, plus many more which only an author residing in the USA is likely to find. There are a few gaps, but not many, and these are more than made up for by the new research. The beginning of the book deals in considerable detail with the differences between ‘cricket’ and ‘wicket.’ The latter was taken up enthusiastically by cricket historian Rowland Bowen as a forerunner to cricket; Mr. Patel, however, provides evidence that the game, although with many similarities, was a different sport. Many historians have claimed they are (probably) the same but it seems from the evidence quoted they were not, as they were played side by side for many years. The author, wisely, does not commit himself on this point, leaving the reader to decide. He tells me that his ongoing quest is ‘where and when did Wicket originate’ and is wondering if anyone in England has looked into the matter. Could you, or anyone you know, help him with this query?
His thoughts as to why cricket did not take off in America are also sensibly noncommittal, because it is difficult to pinpoint a specific reason. The game was on the cusp of becoming the most important ball game in the country but a combination of events, including independence, the civil war, and the marketing of baseball (certainly a British game, a point – known to most sports enthusiasts for at least 100 years but ignored by Americans – confirmed by the book) as the national game, all but destroyed it. Of course, cricket is still played, mainly in the Philadelphia area, and the Canada v USA series is the oldest continuing international fixture in the world. The book also considers the current status of the game in North America.
The latter part of the book deals with cricket in South America. Most of the information, which is somewhat limited, is provided by the various cricket associations of those countries, but in some cases there is new information that either supersedes or adds to the listing provided by Martin Wilson in his useful booklet First Cricket in…(Christopher Saunders 2009). The main additions are Costa Rica (1870), Peru (1859) and Uruguay (1842) and I can add Columbia (1882) from my research for the next volume of Scores and Biographies. Chilean Cricket on page 322 does not give itself enough historical credit as the reference to 1829 should actually be to 1818 (see page 54 of Wilson’s book). On the other hand, research at Lord’s show that Mexican cricket began in 1827, and not 1837 as indicated by Wilson (see page 66). There seems to me more scope to improve the information on South America. Guyana and Falkland Isles spring to mind, as they are or were British territories, and not all countries are covered. Anybody interested in cricket in the Americas should buy a copy of this volume. There is great potential for a follow-up book, which I hope Mr. Patel will produce in due course.