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Senator backs bill to promote cricket ⋆ Epeak . Independent news and blogs

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At a time when the sports talk at the state Capitol is about making baseball the Empire State’s official sport, a state senator is looking to boost cricket.

Albany Highlanders’ bowler Ashok Adikooppula, right, releases the ball during their semifinal cricket game against Uprising on Saturday, Aug. 22, 2015, at Grout Athletic Field in Schenectady, N.Y. Uprising batters are Amit Dinaram, left, and Gavin Narine center. (Cindy Schultz / Times Union)

Sen. James Sanders, D-Queens, has re-introduced legislation that would establish an Empire Region Cricket Board to be comprised of appointees from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. The bill, which went nowhere in 2015 or 2016, also would require passage in New Jersey and Connecticut before the board would be established.

The stated purpose is to promote and grow the game of cricket in the tri-state area, which allegedly would be an economic boon to the region.

The fiscal implications of the bill have yet to be determined.

“Most players are immigrants from all over the world who have brought the game of Cricket to their new homeland,” the legislation’s sponsor memo states. “This has made Cricket into one of the most diverse sports in the United States. The diversity of the New York Tri-State Region (New York, New Jersey and Connecticut) and the influx of immigrants into the region have made Cricket a fast growing sport in the region. You don’t have to drive far to find Cricket games being played every weekend throughout the area.”

Though still relatively obscure on the national stage, there is evidence the sport is rising in popularity in America.

An analysis published last year by Medill Reports Chicago out of Northwestern University found that in Chicago, the number of league times had risen to 100 from 40 in 2010. The analysis pointed to two reasons for growth: passionate Asian immigrants spreading awareness of the sport and the offering of International Cricket Committee-sanctioned tournaments in the United Staes.

What’s more, Forbes reported in September that a professional cricket league is coming to America as part of a $70 million licensing agreement between the United States of America Cricket Association and a Pennsylvania sports development company that is eyeing an estimated $2.4 billion in infrastructure and business development by building out the league.

Or simply consider the apparent cricket fever that has struck the City of Schenectady. From my colleague Paul Nelson in Tuesday’s Times Union:

It turns out that several other cricket groups want to play at Grout Park besides the two that have been bickering for years over the city-owned fields.

Representatives from at least three other organizations attended a meeting last month convened by City Councilwoman Marion Porterfield to discuss the matter.

“If cricket don’t come under one umbrella, we’re going to have these problems,” said Onkar Singh of the Schenectady Softball Cricket Association. “Everyone needs to work to take cricket to its higher heights.”

He said his group would like to use the park on Hamburg Street in Mont Pleasant on Sunday afternoons. There was a request for that same time slot from Premier League, and the Albany-based Capital District Association of New York is interested in playing games on Saturdays and practicing during the evenings on weekdays.

Right now, the Upstate New York Cricket Association is in charge of managing Grout Park but it has been at odds with the Guyanese American Association of Schenectady, GAAS, over everything from playing time to money.

In 2015, city leaders awarded the contract to maintain the park to the Upstate New York Cricket Association.

Before that, GAAS, a nonprofit group that serves Schenectady’s Guyanese and West Indian community, ran the park, which has at least two fields that are being used to play cricket, but can accommodate a third one.

At the gathering last month Singh accused GAAS of creating all the conflict because the group wants to regain control of Grout Park.

“They have destroyed cricket in Schenectady,” Singh said.

(h/t the USA Today Network’s Jon Campbell)

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