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The Awaited Rise of Cricket in the United States: A Journey Towards the T20 World Cup 20224

Cricket in the United States is on the cusp of a transformative era. Reflecting back on the storied past of cricket, there’s a delightful anecdote about the legendary Don Bradman, who was out for a duck in New York. The bowler’s ecstatic celebration, coupled with stuffing his cap with dollar bills from the crowd, may have irked Bradman, but it showcased a unique intersection of cricket and American culture.

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Fast forward nearly a century, and the U.S. is gearing up to co-host the T20 World Cup. This pivotal moment is seen as a significant opportunity for cricket to finally establish itself in a country dominated by baseball, basketball, and the NFL.

A Long Road to Recognition

The ICC has been nurturing cricket in the U.S. for over two decades, but tangible progress has been slow. With 16 of the 55 World Cup games set to be played on U.S. soil, and cricket’s inclusion in the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics, the sport is at a critical juncture. However, several challenges remain, primarily revolving around governance and infrastructure.

Governance and Organizational Hurdles

USA Cricket, the sport’s governing body in the country, has faced significant governance issues, resulting in multiple resignations. Unlike other member nations, it has had minimal involvement in organizing and marketing the T20 World Cup. The ICC had to establish T20 International Inc. to oversee the tournament’s operations.

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Despite these challenges, Major League Cricket (MLC) has emerged as a beacon of hope, providing the necessary infrastructure and raising the sport’s profile. With significant backers like Microsoft’s Satya Nadella, MLC has attracted star players, including Steve Smith and Glenn Maxwell, to its ranks.

Building for the Future

MLC’s ambitions include expanding from 19 games in 2023 to 34 by 2025, with dedicated cricket grounds already constructed in Dallas and Florida. A temporary stadium in New York’s Eisenhower Park, built at a cost of $30 million, will host matches including the highly anticipated India vs. Pakistan clash.

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While there are logistical challenges, such as transportation to the stadium, the ICC insists that the facility will leave behind a “world-class international playing facility” post-tournament.

The Million-Dollar Question: Will Cricket Find Its Place?

Estimates suggest there are 50-60 million cricket fans in the U.S., though these numbers may be optimistic. A recent YouGov poll indicated that one in five Americans are interested in the T20 World Cup, with a surprising 52% believing the U.S. team will win.

The U.S. team’s recent 2-1 series win over Bangladesh has further fueled optimism. However, integrating cricket into the American mainstream remains a daunting task. Unlike traditional sports, cricket has not yet achieved ‘Varsity’ status with the National Collegiate Athletic Association, limiting access to significant funding and exposure.

A Glimmer of Hope

Despite these hurdles, there is a substantial South Asian and West Indian diaspora passionate about cricket. Figures like England’s World Cup winner Liam Plunkett, who moved to the U.S., add to the sport’s growing profile. As Major League Cricket continues to develop, there are high hopes that interest and participation will flourish.

The Cultural Integration

Throughout the upcoming T20 World Cup, expect to see curious and sometimes baffled reactions from the general American public. Much like the 1994 football World Cup, which initially faced skepticism, there’s potential for cricket to eventually capture the American imagination.

The tale of Bradman’s duck and the supposed inspiration for Donald Duck is a charming story. When cricket finally has its own authentic animated character or mainstream cultural moment in America, it will signify the sport’s true integration into American life.

For now, cricket fans and the broader community can look forward to an exciting period as the sport strives to carve out its niche in the United States.

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