161 years in the making, Rochester has rich cricket culture

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The first cricket match was played in Rochester in 1859 and has been going strong ever since.

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — If you head to Genesee Valley Park on a Saturday afternoon, you’ll find one of Rochester’s oldest traditions.

“We love cricket. We live and die with cricket,” said Ephraim Beckaroo, a member of the Rochester Cricket Club.

The sport has been played at the park since 1911. When the land was given by the Rochester Cricket Club to the city, it was required that there always be a cricket ground on site. A plaque lies underneath a tree in the park commemorating one of the club’s founders.

In fact, cricket in Rochester goes back to 1859 when one of the first matches in the United States was played. A team from England toured the United States that year and showed off the sport to Rochesterians.

“Representing this club is a great honor to me. There’s a rich, old history to this,” said Surya Moganty, the Rochester Cricket Club’s captain and general secretary. “Taking that forward with this new generation is a big challenge because we have a lot at stake.”

The Rochester Cricket Club used to be the only cricket team in Rochester and would travel around the county and to the Caribbean to play in matches and tournaments. Now, there are enough players in the city for four separate teams. They usually play in a league with teams from Buffalo, however this year Buffalo and Rochester remained separate to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The club has brought together hundreds of first-generation immigrants, who come from countries where cricket is more like a religion.

“As a result of that, we always have the participation we need to go forward,” said Beckaroo. “It will never die here, it will just go forward.”

One of those immigrants is Neil Clements, whose father was the national cricket team coach in Guyana. Clements actually moved from Buffalo to Rochester in part, because of the city’s rich cricket history. 

“In Rochester, we have a couple of people who could be at a national level, easily,” said Clements. “Once you sign up, you’re in. It’s the brotherhood of it. You’re just here, you get to enjoy it and you get to play a sport that you never thought would be here.

“Without [cricket], it feels like something is missing,” said Moganty. “This is a great opportunity for us to play.”

The Rochester Cricket Club won the league championship and will hope to defend their title next year when they can hopefully play against the teams from Buffalo once again.

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