Who’s Playing

For sports fans used to rivalries like New York versus Boston, Los Angeles versus San Francisco, and Green Bay versus Chicago, the who's-who of teams playing the highest level of international cricket can seem pretty random and not always on the most level of playing fields.

Zimbabwe versus Australia?

Sri Lanka versus England?

Pakistan versus South Africa?

To understand how Bangladesh ends up playing a Test series in the West Indies, you need to understand a little about British colonialism and its repercussions.

In a nutshell, just about any country or region that the British Empire had managed to colonize has some history of cricket playing.

Here in the US, where public school history classes are woefully lacking concerning any history that doesn't involve the US, our knowledge of British colonization is confined to the Boston Tea Party, the Revolutionary War, and the Declaration of Independence. And dig as deep as you want to into those three topics and you probably still won't find any references to Zimbabwe.

An American cartoonist in 1888 depicted John Bull (England) as the octopus of imperialism, grabbing land on every continent.  

Currently, there are twelve teams that compete at the highest level of international cricket in all three formats.

In order of when they achieved Test-playing status…

England (1877)

Australia (1877)

South Africa (1889)

West Indies (1928)

New Zealand (1930)

India (1932)

Pakistan (1952)

Sri Lanka (1982)

Zimbabwe (1992)

Bangladesh (2000)

Ireland (2018)

Afghanistan (2018)

And despite the wide range of geographical sizes, populations, and GDPs among these countries, it's not always the biggest and strongest that comes out on top on the pitch. Currently, Australia is the best team in Test cricket. New Zealand is on top of the rankings for 50-over ODI cricket. And in T20 cricket, India is the number one team in the world.

In women's international cricket, Australia is the leading team in both the ODI and T20 formats. The recent draws -- England vs. India and Australia vs. England -- were the first women's international Test matches since 2017.

After these twelve nations, an additional 92 are considered Associate Members as recognized by the International Cricket Council (ICC), the governing body of the sport.

And that's where you'll find the United States, at least for now. As a former British colony, cricket was a commonly played sport in the US until the end of the Civil War. After that, its popularity waned while baseball's popularity grew. In recent years, though, thanks to an increase in ex-pats from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and the West Indies, there's been a resurgence of interest here in the game. And in 1918, the US was granted Associate Member status. (The US had been an Associate member from 1965 until 2017, when it was expelled by the ICC for various transgressions by the then-governing USA Cricket Association.) Currently, the governing board for the country is USA Cricket.