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From Backyard Matches To The World Cup: Cricket Is A Family Affair For New York’s Caribbean Community

New York City is buzzing with cricket fever as the U.S. hosts its first Cricket World Cup. Although cricket is new to American audiences, it has been thriving among immigrant communities for generations.

Tracey Khan

Jun 13, 2024

The Rengasami sisters at the T20 game are proudly sporting their American and Guyanese flags.

For the first time in history, the United States is hosting the Cricket World Cup and New York is buzzing with cricket fever. From the June 1st kick-off game between Sri Lanka and South Africa to the recent, highly anticipated matchup between India and Pakistan referred to as “The Super Bowl” of cricket, the newly built 34,000-seat stadium on Long Island has been sold out for each game. 

Nassau County’s estimated $30 million investment in constructing a temporary stadium paid off well, as the games are expected to generate over $100 million in revenue. The last match in New York was played on June 12, before the World Cup games head to Florida and countries across the Caribbean region. While it may be new to American audiences, cricket is a sport that has been thriving among immigrant communities for generations, with local leagues hosting competitions at neighborhood parks across New York City for decades. For the Rengasami family, who lives in Richmond Hill, Queens, the connection with cricket runs deep. It transcends mere sport to become a binding force woven into the fabric of their lives across generations. 

The family of 12, including six sisters, two brothers, nieces, and cousins, went to three games at the new Eisenhower Park on Long Island since the matches began at the start of June. 

Excitement fills the air as the Rengasami family prepares to leave their home in Queens to watch the T20 Men’s World Cup match in Long Island on Saturday.

“Cricket is life for us, it is my biggest passion,” says Nanda Rengasami. The passion for this sports family is so big that even years after migrating to the United States, they went back to Guyana to watch matches. “After the CPL [Caribbean Premier League] came to Guyana in 2022, we took time off from work to travel out of the country to watch this sport; it was 13 of us that traveled back.” 

There’s a special love for the sport that Nanda and her sisters have and they say started with their father, Pyandy Rengasami, a revered umpire in Guyana who played the sport for over 20 years. They say his fervor for cricket continues to echo through his family, even four decades after his passing.

Also Read: Spotlight: The Guyanese of New York City

“We love cricket because we are following in our father’s footsteps, and we can’t get away from that. We were born into this, and everyone in our family knows and has so much love and appreciation for cricket, and it has brought us closer as a family,” Joan Rengasami explained. 

As they prepared for the Netherlands vs. South Africa match on June 8, the atmosphere was filled with smiles, signs, music and the vibrant display of Guyanese and American flags. The families departed in three cars, their music blasting as the excitement for cricket energized their spirits. 

This family is just one of many from Caribbean and South Asian communities in New York who are proud to see the T20 World Cup matches being played in New York for the first time. 

The Rengasami family gathers at  Eisenhower Park Stadium on Long Island for the T20 Men’s World Cup match between South Africa and the Netherlands on June 8, 2024.

“If our father was alive he would be so proud to know that this sport that has brought him so much joy is loved by his children and grandchildren and it is because of him,” Nanda shared. 

Yvonne Rengasami, Pyandy’s widow and the family matriarch, fondly reminisced about her husband’s unwavering dedication to cricket. “He loved the game so much that he passed away on a cricket ground in Guyana at just 39, ” she said. “For my children, their passion for cricket is a tribute to his legacy.” 

The Rengasami family hopes the T20 matches will significantly boost cricket’s popularity in the United States, attract a broader audience, and introduce the excitement and traditions of the game to more Americans. 

The bat-and-ball game of cricket, similar to baseball, is played on a 22-yard pitch, which is a rectangular area in the middle of the field where players stand. The game is played with wickets that batters must defend at each end. Each team takes turns batting and fielding, aiming to score runs while preventing the opposing team from doing the same. The goal is to get the most runs by batting and bowling. 

The sport is also attracting some younger fans, like 13-year-old Sabrina Achaibar, Pyandy’s granddaughter, who shares the family’s passion for cricket. “Cricket is more than just a game to us; it’s a cherished tradition that unites us all,” she affirmed. “I love the camaraderie, the friendships formed, and the joy we experience together while playing and watching cricket.”

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For the Rengasami family, attending the T20 Cricket World Cup in New York symbolizes more than mere spectatorship. It’s a homage to their heritage, a tribute to their patriarch, and a continuation of a treasured family legacy. 

“Cricket lights up the atmosphere and through this sport, you’re able to bond with even a stranger and its even better when you’re with family and friends…so now that we are able to experience all these amazing feelings and moments because of this beautiful sport in our own backyard, it is truly amazing,” said Sabrina. 

Tracey Khan

Tracey Khan, a seasoned Guyanese journalist based in the U.S., has over 15 years of experience covering national and international events across the Caribbean and the United States. Renowned for her insightful reporting and captivating storytelling, she has honed her skills with esteemed news outlets in Guyana and is now striving to establish her presence in New York. 

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