Cricket is a fast-growing sport and the presence of 20 teams in the upcoming T20 World Cup is a proof of that. Another proof is the emergence of the American cricket team and the USA as a cricket venue, which might help increase the game’s popularity in the region.

Not many people remember, but when the FIFA World Cup was held in the USA 30 years back, everyone was stunned because neither did the US have a good football or soccer team, nor did they possess the infrastructure to host a world-class tournament. Three decades later, Lionel Messi chose the football league in the States over the French and English Premier Leagues, proving that those who awarded the US the hosting rights in 1994 were visionary.

Similarly, the T20 World Cup could boost the game in the United States and the other countries surrounding it. They have already won the hearts of followers of the game across the globe by revamping their stadiums for the mega event, where 16 of the 55 matches would be played.

The venues selected for the American leg of the T20 World Cup matches include New York, Dallas, and Florida. The Nassau County International Cricket Stadium in New York was built at $30 million and has a seating capacity of over 34,000 people. It was previously used for Formula 1 during the Las Vegas Grand Prix and, since it doesn’t have floodlights, all the matches played here would be day games.

What makes this stadium interesting is that it will use a drop-in pitch which will be exported from Florida to New York via road over two days, using truck containers. The grass pitch will be removed after the eight matches at this venue and an artificial turf will replace it afterwards. The grandstands and the seating capacity will be torn down after the T20 World Cup, and only the field will remain intact.

Unlike the temporary status of the Nassau County Stadium, the Grand Prairie Stadium in Dallas is a permanent structure. Between 2008 and 2019, the 7,000-seater stadium was the base of a professional baseball side and hosted a few soccer matches too. The stadium was later redeveloped into a cricket stadium with the help of a $20 million investment; the only thing that remains from the baseball days is the upper level of the old baseball complex.

And then there is the Central Broward Park and Broward County Stadium in Lauderhill, Florida, the oldest, most cricket-like stadium in the United States. Built in 2007 at $70 million, the stadium has hosted the Caribbean Premier League (CPL), and various series between West Indies and other international sides, like New Zealand and India.

Let’s talk about the USA cricket team that recently defeated a Test-playing nation (Bangladesh) in a T20I series ahead of the World Cup. The team comprises immigrants from Pakistan, India, West Indies and Sri Lanka, and is coached by former Australian player Stuart Law. Now Stuart Law has the experience of not just playing in the cricket World Cup in 1996, but also appearing in the grand finale played at Lahore. His wisdom has brought the American side to the main round of the T20 World Cup, and if they continue to listen to him, they might even upset a couple of big teams in the first round.

A lot would however depend on the secret weapon that Americans made their own — Corey Anderson. The former Kiwi all-rounder who was part of three Cricket World Cups — one ODI and two T20 World Cups — for New Zealand returns to the international fold, but this time as an American cricketer. He is still remembered for his 36-ball ODI century against the West Indies he scored in 2014, which remained the fastest ODI century for the next 12 months and is still the second-fastest ODI hundred.

Why the quality all-rounder was not part of the Kiwi setup in the last five years remains a mystery, one that was solved by the US cricket management who made sure that he became a part of their cricket setup ahead of the mega event.

Published in Dawn, Young World, June 1st, 2024

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