• Saturday, April 13, 2024

CRICKET

Why World Cup could spark US cricket fever

The diaspora in America are keen to see their country’s stars playing in the country, say organisers

By: Eastern Eye

ORGANISERS of June’s ICC T20 Cricket World Cup games in the United States say that early ticket sales have shown there is a huge demand for the sport among cricket lovers in the country.

The highly anticipated clash in New York between cricket rivals Pakistan and India was over-subscribed by 200 times in the public ballot for tickets, the International Cricket Council (ICC) said.

The 34,000-seat temporary venue, in Nassau County on Long Island, has yet to be completed but is already assured of a sell-out crowd for the June 9 encounter.

The tournament is being co-hosted by the West Indies and the US.

While big crowds are expected in the traditional cricket countries in the Caribbean, this will be the first time that an international tournament is held in the US. The 16 games in the country also include matches in Lauderhill, South Florida and Grand Prairie Stadium, near Dallas.

“We had amazing ticket interest. The ballot process showed there’s a really big demand,” T20 World Cup USA Inc chief executive Brett Jones told AFP last Friday (23).

“India-Pakistan is obviously a game that at every World Cup carries great interest. I think it’s really pleasing to see those two countries come to the US,” he added.

Powerhouses India and Pakistan will play all their group games in the US and are sure to attract packed crowds from the diaspora living in the country.

While organisers hope they can “convert” some Americans to the game, they are well aware that there is already huge interest among immigrant populations and their focus is on serving those fans.

“I think, number one, we want to celebrate those that are already fanatical lovers of cricket. They deserve to see the best players in the world come into their backyard and have that chance,” said Jones.

“So, number one, we want to make sure that happens and they get to feel like they’re close to a game they love.

Number two, I think it’s about spiking curiosity in the game,” he said.

Americans have never fallen for the charms of cricket, preferring baseball for their bat and ball action. But the sport is set to get an unprecedented platform in the country with the T20 format, including in the Los Angeles Olympics in four year’s time.

“Obviously there’s a great runway to the Olympics in LA in 28 and then on into Brisbane in 2032 for cricket, which again will keep it in the global view and the consciousness of a big country like the US,” said Jones.

“I think we’ve got those two things working for us.

“We’re saying we want to reward our cricket fans and lovers of cricket in the US, which is a huge market.

“Then we want to spike curiosity and really hopefully start a bigger conversation about the game and its benefits at the community level.”

Ireland, Sri Lanka, South Africa, the Netherlands, Bangladesh and Canada will also play in the US along with the host nation themselves.

While there is no lack of interest, organisers still have plenty to do to create the facilities and infrastructure needed for a global tournament.

Lauderhill, just outside Fort Lauderdale, has already played home to international cricket matches but is undergoing significant upgrades.

Grand Prairie opened last year as the venue for the new domestic tournament, Major League Cricket, but is also being enhanced for the event.

“We are still going to have a lot of work to do to make sure that we can provide access to our cricket fans,” Jones said.

“We want to show people that in a sports-mad country that demands entertainment, cricket is a great entertainment product,” he added.

The tournament will start on June 1 with the USA facing Canada in Texas.

The USA vice-captain Aaron Jones said he hoped the team’s performances will offer inspiration to youngsters starting out in the sport.

“We want to show everybody the USA can be a cricketing country as well and be a role model for kids coming up,” he said.

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