Cricket fans in Mexico hope to boost the sport and add teams

MEXICO CITY (AP) — University student Emanuel Gutiérrez made a rare choice in his native Mexico when he adapted his baseball swing for cricket.

Cricket supporters in the country hope there’s more to come.

The sport has been on an upswing in Mexico in the past decade due to a growing Indian community in the Latin American nation.

Cricket is now played in six of the country’s 32 states. The sport arrived in 1827 with diplomats, entrepreneurs and British contractors. It never came close to soccer’s popularity but now has some cricketers in the making.

Gutiérrez said he continues to invite friends to watch him play regardless of the jokes he has to hear.

“What is this sport?” he replied when The Associated Press asked what question he has to answer most frequently.

Cricket is the second most popular sport in the world, with more than 2.5 billion fans, mostly in Asia.

For many years, British and Indian cricketers in Mexico did not reach out to the locals, which limited the sport’s growth. But times are changing and the Mexican cricket association now has academy teams led by Indian players, so pupils of private and public schools can learn the sport.

A pilot initiative at the Santa Martha Acatitla women’s jail, outside the Mexican capital, was so successful that four other prisons joined.

The number of teams in Mexico has grown from nine in 2019 to 17 today, said Ben Owen, president of the country’s cricket federation. His goal is to reach 50 teams nationwide soon.

“Our idea is to grow the sport in every region where we have a presence but horizontally. That means more kids playing and with that more players for us in the future,” Owen said.

The 36-year-old Indian executive Pratik Singh, who arrived in Mexico almost five years ago, is one of the leaders behind the effort. He coaches a women’s team and teaches the sport in poor regions of Mexico City to deaf and mute children.

“I arrived in Mexico without thinking about cricket,” Singh said.

He started playing again for fun and after two years he became a coach.

“We Indians can share our knowledge but to have big growth in Mexico we need to involve more Mexicans,” he added.

That is why players like Gutiérrez have brought new hope. He has worked hard to improve his cricket swing and to hold on to his bat after he hits the ball — as opposed to his time as a baseball player.

“If Mexicans really get to know what this sport is like, there’s a lot of potential for them to like it a lot,” he said.


AP cricket:

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