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With India and Pakistan clashing, can cricket catch on in the US?

With India and Pakistan clashing, can cricket catch on in the US?
With India and Pakistan clashing, can cricket catch on in the US?


Nearly 200 years after the world's first ever international cricket match was played in the US, the sport has returned to American shores in the form of the T20 World Cup. On Sunday,Pakistan and India will meetin New York at the Nassau County Cricket Stadium for one of the big matches of the tournament. This comes just days laterPakistan lost to the US teamin a historic shock.

Well over half a billionViewers are expected to tune in to watch this blockbuster match between the South Asian rivals. The temporary stands will accommodate 34,000 seats and ticket priceson resale websites start at almost $700 before fees. India vs Pakistan is like the Super Bowl on steroids, Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman told Reuters. We had no idea how big it was.

Although the game is largely unknown in the US, this tournament is not America's first encounter with cricket.

The India-Pakistan clash and the event as a whole are at the center of the International Cricket Council's (ICC) push to grow cricket in the US, which is co-hosting the World Cup with the Caribbean. Real growth and sustainability will require a long-term strategy that doesn't rely on one-off tournaments, flashy matchups or one-off setbacks, but the World Cup is still a significant step towards breaking cricket into the mainstream. The United States

While the game is largely unknown in the US, this tournament isnot America's first encounter with cricket. A Virginia plantation owner first documented the game's presence in the future United States as early as 1709. George Washington's troops played cricket at Valley Forge, Benjamin Franklin returned home from England with the official sports rulebook, and Abraham Lincoln was watching a match between teamsfrom Chicago and Milwaukee in 1849. But around the Civil War, baseball became the nation's favorite bat-and-ball game. Cricket was left to the British colonies in Oceania, South Asia and the Caribbean.

As a cricket writer (en editor-in-chief of the British Medical Journal) Kamran Abbasitold me: Cricket is now a global sport, but it is difficult for any sport to claim to be truly global without the involvement of major powers. [The] The US hosting this tournament feels a bit forced, but it's an important moment. America's sheer size and financial capabilities could make the country a tempting untapped market for the ICC and the cricket power brokers. They hope to follow the successes of sports such as football And formula 1who, thanks in part to the Internet, have turned their considerable global reach into popularity in the US

And while most Americans are unfamiliar with cricket, the sport doesn't start from scratch. The ICC estimates that the country ishome to 30 million cricket fansThis attractive market is as large or larger than most sporting powers and consists largely of immigrants from South Asia who watch and play the game in the country's metropolises, such asNew York CityAndHouston. Growing up in Chicago, I followed the sport from a young age thanks to one of those immigrants: my father. Nowadays, during summer weekends, parks in and around the city turn into cricket fields where more than a hundred teams compete.

Wherever South Asians go, you will find cricket, Abbasi told me. The question really is whether that passion for cricket can be transferred to Americans who are not of South Asian descent.

Cricket fans in America hope the transfer started last yearwith the launch of Major League Cricket(MLC), a new professional men's league consisting of six teams. Founded with an initial investment of $120 million from an industrious group of investors including Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and Texas businessman Ross Perot Jr., the league banked on the diaspora of cricketing nations in America because of its success.

Both the biennial World Cup and the MLC are based on a crowd-pleasing T20 version of cricket. Unlike the sport's longer format that can last five days, T20 games last just three hours and are known for their aggressive batting displays and cunning bowling. This action-packed format has already breathed new life into cricket worldwide and is unsurprisingly the version being exported to America. , which is known for its short attention span and need for instant gratification.

But organizing great tournaments can only do so much to bring the sport into the American mainstream.

Perhaps nothing can promote the sport faster in the short term than the success of the national teams and the subsequent coverage on social media and beyond. An unexpected lift came on Thursday in the form of the US's unlikely victory against powerhouse Pakistan in Thursday's group stage game. This victory came on the heels of a dominant win against Canadain the tournament opener.

Anyone hoping to keep the sport's momentum going should start with the MLC. The league's second season kicks off in early July and will feature more international superstars, lured by the league's growing profile and ample funding. A new boost in the United States will come in 2028 cricket will be played at the Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, the first sporting performance at the event since 1900.

But organizing great tournaments can only do so much to bring the sport into the American mainstream. Long after the Nassau County stands collapse and the glow of Thursday's unrest fades, little glamorous work will be required to keep the game growing organically through grassroots efforts and infrastructure investments.

I still think it will be difficult. From the outside, it appears that Americans love their sports and want to be the best at the sports they compete in, Abbasi warned. Nothing attracts American viewers like American stars. A real danger is that ICC, a commercially driven organization, will only see dollar signs instead of planning a long-term strategy to establish and make sustainable cricket in the US.

Despite the many uncertainties in the years ahead, cricket fans and stakeholders hoping for American sports expansion should remain confident. As baseball fans like to say, if you build it, they will come.




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