LONDON — Right next to London’s iconic Tower Bridge, just six miles from where the Red Sox and Yankees will play this weekend, there was a large screen set up outdoors in the middle of a stadium-like row of benches.
The World Cup of Cricket was playing, and hundreds of Englanders were gathered from morning till night on Thursday, swilling beer from a nearby bar along the river and following along only casually to the game on the screen.
Cricket moves slowly, the action is spread out and rarely did the crowd erupt when watching. To no surprise, the game is considered an ancestor of baseball. But even those watching on Thursday had no interest in the American game, nor any idea what was to take place this weekend.
“I didn’t even know it was happening,” said Ben Ashworth, a 22-year-old native of South London. “I couldn’t name many baseball teams. It’s obviously quite a similar sport.”
The Sox-Yankees rivalry has a lighter appeal across the pond.
“Oh really are they?” said Jeeven Sohi, 22, also a London native, when told they were playing at London Stadium. “I didn’t know that. With cricket, for me, it’s an Indian thing. Baseball is an American thing, so I can’t relate.”
Almost 200 years after England native Henry Chadwick grew tired of cricket in America and helped transform it into the game of baseball, the two sports are quite relatable, despite how separated the fans of each may be.
Chadwick had been covering cricket for the New York Times in the 1850s when he began to see why baseball would become a more beloved game in America.
Neil Locke, 59, who was watching along at Tower Bridge. “They say, ‘no, we drank, we read the newspaper, we laughed.’ You watch it for hours and hours and most of the time you see blokes walking around doing nothing.”
All the dead time will have to be limited. Cricket is addressing these issues aggressively.
Like Chadwick wrote in 1856, there’s a lot that baseball can learn from its British cousin. Once again, it’s time to speed it up.