United States of Cricket

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For a country that prides itself in sporting traditions that are unique just to itself, it cannot warm up to any other globally popular sport, least of all cricket. That said, the United States being a hotch-potch of natives from across the world and home away from home for millions of our cricket-crazy subcontinent, it wasn’t a bad idea to introduce a cricket league there.

So thought the New Zealand Cricket Board in 2010 when it played two Twenty20 matches against Sri Lanka with the Florida skyline as the backdrop. Despite the occasion, two full members of the ICC with their top teams playing for the first time in the US, the southern American city didn’t take kindly to the imported sport. One game was called off while the two others were low-scoring ones, leaving the audience with no great impact. USA apart, we’re sure low-scoring games aren’t cheered by spectators in a Kanpur too.

That said, call it ‘calling’ or some good business acumen of New Zealand Cricket to set up a T20 league with the United States of America Cricket Association led them to Uncle Sam once again this year. The opening two games – again T20s – of New Zealand tour of West Indies were slotted at Lauderhill in Florida. West Indian cricketers, now popular over the world for ‘freelancing’ in cricketing leagues, showed up and the crowds too did. Pollard, Gayle, Bravo and Smith ensured the games were a spectacle. With the first match witnessing a record total of 209 by the Windies and the second one some dazzling hits and dismissals, the 10,000-odd fans in each match couldn’t have asked for more.

While on one hand the Guyana President has criticised his board for this US move as the island itself needs some cricketing profits through its new stadia, the Florida Cricket Association is not complaining. This trend, if at all it becomes one, will also be great news for the thousands of expats in USA for getting a chance to watch a sport they grew up to!

These series, especially the one that wound up last week, have been landmark for American cricket (never heard that term, have we!). Interestingly, elections are being held for the new CEO of the USACA and a 100-day plan for the future of USA cricket has been unveiled. Not that the nation’s economy needs a sporting boost (or does it?), but we’re sure that the ‘experience’ of cricket in USA would be packaged with loads of scenic locations and some good ol’ American cheer.

The next big step, of course, would be for either of the boards to coax India to play a series there. That way, notwithstanding the quality of cricket, the games would be sure shot sellouts. For cricket to work in any new country (ICC has been developing it in Hong Kong, Japan, Holland and more), earning the interest of the non cricket-watching locals is the key.

Remember that era of India-Pak friendship series in Toronto? If only the BCCI would allow a tour that would be telecast midnight India time onwards. We’ll be ready to stay up!

Picture Courtesy: dreamcricket.com