A look at the sport’s rising popularity in Newfoundland – By Liam Herringshaw
So, here’s a question for you: What first official sport of Canada, now the world’s second-most popular sport, and is the newest arrival to the Memorial University sports scene? OK, I suspect the headline rather gives it away, but I’ll tell you the answer anyway—it’s cricket.
Many of you reading this piece probably won’t even know what cricket is, so let me start by clearing up a couple of common misconceptions. It’s not “that game on horses,” and it’s not “that game with mallets and hoops.” The former is polo; the latter, croquet. Cricket is the quintessential, summer team sport played by millions of people across the globe and, thanks to an increasingly international student population, by an ever-growing number of people here at MUN.

The more complex ancestor of baseball, cricket is played on a pitch 22 yards long, in the middle of a large, flat, grassy field, and involves two teams of 11 players. One team bats first, and the other team fields, with the game becoming a battle between bowlers (approximate equivalents to baseball pitchers) and batters, as the latter try to score as many runs as they can. When the time is up, or all the batters are out, the teams swap; the fielding team goes into bat and tries to overhaul their opponents’ score. The game typically lasts a few hours, but at the very highest level, a match can last five days, (albeit with lunch and tea breaks factored in.)
Time, equipment, and flat, grassy fields being in short supply in St John’s, local cricketers have had to take novel approaches in order to play their beloved game. Most weekends in the summer, you’ll find Bangladeshi, Indian, and Pakistani students playing not on grass, but on basketball courts, and using not a leather cricket ball, but a tennis ball wrapped in electrical tape.
The lack of facilities has not deterred people, though. In fact, 2010 saw such demand for cricket that a provincial association was established. There are now two informal clubs: St John’s Cricket Club and Memorial Cricket Club. A Newfoundland and Labrador team was even sent to Fredericton to compete in their first regional tournament.
Surprising though it may seem, cricket was once big in Newfoundland; so this is resurrection rather than creation. Crowds of 2,000 or more would come to watch matches between St John’s and visiting British Navy teams in the nineteenth century. A league ran for many decades, and even as recently as the 1930s, an inter-town trophy was being competed for. From Corner Brook to Twillingate, Grand Falls to Harbour Grace, the dominion had many strong clubs, and produced three men who played the sport at the very highest level overseas.
Although the influx of baseball and soccer in the summer killed off cricket, a revival has begun. Memorial Cricket Club is setting up a winter, indoor league to keep the summer momentum going. Recognizing that most locals are unfamiliar with the game, there will be a series of introductory sessions in which newcomers can try their hand at batting, bowling, and fielding. If you’re used to hitting hockey pucks or golf balls, you’ll be able to pick up batting pretty quickly. Although bowling is more specialized, anyone who has fast-pitched a softball will soon grasp the technique. If you can run, catch, and throw, you’ll be an expert fielder in no time.
The association will be holding a fund-raiser at the Swilers Rugby Club, Crosbie Road on the evening of Friday, Nov. 26, with tickets priced at just five dollars. The indoor cricket league will begin in the New Year, with the 2011 outdoor league beginning as soon as weather permits.