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When one mention’s the word “cricket,” rarely does anyone think of the Dominican Republic. In fact, if you were to associate cricket and the Dominican Republic most people would think of a grasshopper and the noises they make once the sun goes out. Cricket, a sport long popular in England and its many colonies, has now surfaced as one of the newest sports available to Dominicans as a recreational activity, but in digging deeper into Dominican history most would be astounded to know that cricket was played in the DR long before the country’s pastime, baseball, was even around. In fact long after baseball became the national pastime and cricket faded into almost absolute obscurity Dominicans continued playing a rudimentary version of cricket, “la plaquita,” though they didn’t know it. One hundred and twenty years after the game was originally introduced to Dominicans by West Indian immigrants a small, but dedicated group of players and fans, are uniting in the hopes of making the DR a cricket playing nation and introducing this generation of Dominicans two one of the world’s most popular sports.

Crickets origins can be traced back as far back as the 13th century and some estimates say that the sport might have been played even earlier. As with any sport cricket’s popularity took some time to develop, but by the 17th century it had already gathered a dedicated following in England. By the 18th century cricket had become an increasingly popular sport in England and was particularly popular among the English nobility. The spread of cricket on an international scale is directly related to the increased presence of the British Empire around the world and the development of British colonies. Wherever the British landed the game of cricket, along with the game’s culture, was taught to locals who quickly adapted to the game and made it their own. Though the British developed a colonial presence in the Caribbean British colonial rule extended only in part to the areas of the West Indies and the Dominican Republic, which had been colonized by the Spanish, would not be introduced to the sport in the way it was introduce to their West Indian neighbors.

Though no accurate accounts exist of cricket’s history in the DR some speculate that West Indian immigrants brought cricket to the Dominican Republic in the late 19th century. Initially, sugar plantation workers in the DR were Dominicans but a slump in sugar prices resulted in a wage freeze and the exit from the industry of Dominican workers. This left the industry critically short of labor, since it became increasingly difficult to persuade subsistence farmers to spend time off their farms. This led to the influx of West Indian immigrants who brought cricket with them as part of their pastime activities. Specifically, in 1884 about 500 West Indians arrived in DR and by 1918 about 7,000 West Indians were entering the DR each year. A 1920 census registered 5,763 immigrants from British West Indian Islands, of those about 3,615 of these were living in San Pedro de Macoris. By 1935 9,272 more West Indian immigrants arrived on the shores of the DR looking for employment. Though during this period there was increased amount of immigration to the DR from various social and cultural groups the migration would eventually decrease. The game, because of large fan base, was originally very popular in the country, but as the West Indian influence in the Dominican Republic faded, so did the development of the sport. But this wasn’t the end cricket in the DR.

Baseball, a game introduced to Dominicans by American Marines stationed here after the 1916 invasion, would quickly become the nation’s national pastime, reflecting a similar trend occurring in the United States. But cricket’s presence, though hidden in the background of the Dominican sports scene would continue to be played by Dominicans. A very simple form of cricket was continued to be played and would morph into a street game played by children called “la plaquita.” But as with anything in the DR some big changes were gradually introduced. Replacing the beautiful grass cricket pitches are the streets of Santo Domingo and replacing wooden stumps are small metal cans at each end of the street. In the Dominican version of cricket, la plaquita, teams are made of two players and instead of batting with wide wooden cricket bats, kids play with anything they can find, while traditional cricket balls are replaced with tennis or handballs. Usually games are played for 20 runs, unlike the marathon matches in professional games.

The basic pitching strategy of cricket is the same when the pitcher, known in cricket as the bowler, throws the ball at the batter with the intent knocking the opposing players can down. Once the can has been knocked down three times the teams switch and the pitcher and his teammate now become the batters. The batters job, as in cricket is to protect his can, the equivalent of the wicket, and also to hit the ball and score as many runs as possible. When a batter hits the ball and gets it into the “outfield,” or far enough away so that he can score a run he will run towards the wicket and change places with his teammate. Every time a player changes places a run for his team is counted. There is no limit on the amount of exchanges (runs) that can happen. Once the defense has fielded the ball he can either threaten to throw the offensive player out, by knocking down the cans, but this could result in a risky move. If he misfires and overshoots the can this could give the offense a chance to score more runs. Variants of la Plaquita are played with teams fielding more players, thus increasing the resemblance to the original game. Though la plaquita is a game played by children on the streets it is this development that has Dr. Shakil Kahn and other cricket enthusiast excited about the possibilities of the game in a country dominated by baseball and other sports.
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