In the chaos of upended lives after 9/11, a cricket connection is made.
Despite roots in the United States that go back further than either professional baseball or football, Americans tend to be baffled by this most English of sports, leaving it to be practiced by immigrants from other former British colonies (and the occasional Anglophile), as Joseph O’Neill details in his strikingly written new novel, Netherland.
"Every summer the parks of this city are taken over by hundreds of cricketers but somehow nobody notices,” says Chuck Ramkissoon, a volunteer umpire and the unlikely friend of Hans van den Broek, the league’s lone white player. Hans first meets Chuck in 2002, after another player questions one of Chuck’s calls by pulling a gun on him. Hans plays in Walter Park as part of the Staten Island Cricket Club, which, he tells readers, was founded in 1872.
“The playing area was, and I am still sure is, half the size of a regulation cricket field. The outfield is uneven and always overgrown, even when cut ... and whereas proper cricket, as some might call it, is played on a grass wicket, the pitch at Walker Park is made of clay, not turf, and must be covered with coconut matting,” Hans explains. “This degenerate version of the sport – bush cricket, as Chuck more than once dismissed it – inflicts an injury that is aesthetic as much as anything.”