Meet the oldest-active cricket club in the US that has thrived in NYC for over 150 years

The eyes of the cricket-loving world are fixed on Long Island Sunday, as the Cricket World Cup continues with archrivals Pakistan and India playing before 34,000 diehards.

But it’s on a different New York island that the bat-and-ball game has thrived for more than 150 years.

The Staten Island Cricket Club is the oldest continuously active cricket club in America, founded in 1872 by British Wall Street traders.

A Staten Island Cricket Club bowler throws against the Columbia University team Saturday. N.Y.Post/Chad Rachman

“In New York City, the Staten Island Cricket Club remains the most diverse,” offered Clarence Modeste, the club’s 94-year-old president. “And the club’s view has always been cricket belongs to everyone.”

Over the decades, the club has played host to legends of the sport, including Australian cricket pioneer Don Bradman, iconic English batsman Geoffrey Boycott, and Garry Sobers, the Barbadian cricketer who played for the West Indies from 1954 to 1974.

The club continues to organize weekend matches, and even offers a youth program.

Modeste, who hails from Tobago and had to give up playing the game six years ago at the ripe age of 88, grew up around cricket.

The Staten Island Cricket Club, which was founded in 1872, plays a match at Walker Park, Saturday. N.Y.Post/Chad Rachman

“What’s important is the spirit of the game — that it is not just a game,” Modeste said. “You don’t just go out to beat your opponent. You do want to win, but you go about it in a gentlemanly way — a civilized way.”

Modeste, a Queens Village resident who’s retired from the medical field, learned about the Staten Island Cricket Club in 1961, and quickly joined.

A general view of the Staten Island Cricket Club. AFP via Getty Images

“Cricket has great meaning to us,” he said. “Playing the game is of primary importance. Winning the game is a secondary concern. The social aspect of cricket is extremely important.”

At SICC, matches honor traditional cricket rules, where play can last all day. The ones being played on Long Island are T20 matches, which are generally faster, higher-scoring affairs.

Manvik Goyal, 10, takes his turn at bat while his father Rahul plays wicket keeper. N.Y.Post/Chad Rachman

“The younger teams playing the T20 version, they go, they play, and they go home — they don’t socialize,” said Modeste. “With the traditional game, you have the social aspect. After the match, you go have a beer with your opponents in the clubhouse, and try to enjoy the camaraderie that envelops cricket and perpetuates it.”

Hanish Sanjeepan, 9, bowls Saturday during a youth cricket clinic at Walker Park. N.Y.Post/Chad Rachman

Today, the club boasts some 50 members hailing from India, Pakistan, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Ireland, England, Sri Lanka, South Africa, and the US. They come from across the five boroughs and New Jersey to the 5-acre Walker Park in Livingston to play the game they love.

A raging fire in 1932 destroyed the clubhouse and its earliest records, so Modeste doesn’t know how many members the club had at its inception, but at at its height, it had 500 members.

Like baseball, the game features cork-and-leather balls and wooden bats, and teams attempt to score as many runs as they can. But the cricket playing field is circular, teams have 11 players instead of 9, and fielders don’t wear mitts. There are no bases and in cricket, and there are bowlers instead of pitchers.

Each time the two players cross paths, a run is scored, and each team plays until they get 50 overs, or outs. Then, the game’s over.

Six missed bowled balls results in an over. And if the bowler happens to hit the batter’s stumps, dislodging the wickets atop them, that, too, is an over. An over can also result from a caught ball.

In the middle of the field, or “oval,” is “the pitch.” Teammates stand on opposite ends of the pitch, in front of catchers and two stumps. Each holds a bat. The bowler launches the ball towards the batter. If the batter hits it into the air or grounds it, the two teammates start running back and forth across the pitch until the ball’s returned by a fielder.

After soccer, cricket is the world’s most popular sport, with an estimated 2.5 billion fans. However, in the United States, it remains a fringe sport, with an estimated 30 million fans calling America home, according to the International Cricket Council.

Rahul Goyal volunteers as wicket keeper during the youth clinic. N.Y.Post/Chad Rachman

But the sport has grown. During the 1990s, it was estimated some 20,000 people played the summertime game in the U.S. Today, that number’s 200,000.

“Cricket has had to remain somewhat in the shadows,” said Modeste. “But you see it continue to grow as we get increasing numbers of immigrants moving here from cricket-playing countries, and that is what has happened.”

Senush Jayakody, 9, reaches to make a catch during Saturday’s youth cricket clinic. N.Y.Post/Chad Rachman

This weekend on Long Island, teams from South Africa, India, the Netherlands and Pakistan will be facing off. Modeste has tickets for Saturday’s match, and admits, he still can’t believe it.

“I never really thought I’d see this day, because over the decades I’ve been here, there hasn’t been a very strong, forward-looking United States Cricket Association,” he said, “but at the same time, I’m filled with excitement.”

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