T20 World Cup expected to increase cricket’s popularity in baseball-crazy America

New Delhi. Cricket was a popular form of entertainment in America in the 18th century but it became an obscure sport amid the growing popularity of baseball. With the sport making a big comeback in North America with the T20 World Cup starting June 1, it will be interesting to see if it will be able to leave a mark on the local audience. India dominates world cricket economically but the International Cricket Council (ICC), which runs the sport globally, sees huge potential in the US market.

The ICC claims that there are already 30 million fans in this huge country who follow the game. This T20 World Cup is also seen as a major stepping stone to the Olympics to be held in Los Angeles in 2028. Cricket will return to the Olympics after 128 years. Most of the matches (55) of the World Cup will be held in the Caribbean countries, including the knockout stage and the final match. A total of 16 matches will be played in three US venues – New York, Dallas and Lauderhill.

The match between South Africa and Sri Lanka on the third day of competition in the T20 World Cup will be the first match of the tournament in the US. It will be hosted by New York. The same venue will also host the most high-profile match between India and Pakistan on June 9. West Indies’ Brian Lara, one of the world’s most successful batsmen, also welcomed the hosting of T20 World Cup matches in the US. He said, “T20 cricket is very entertaining and people want to watch it. People in America want entertainment.”

“When you talk to someone from America, he says, ‘You play a game for five days and then it ends in a draw. What is it all about?’ So it becomes difficult to explain the game to him,” he said. The ICC is doing everything possible to connect with the American audience, whether it is roping in eight-time Olympic gold medalist sprinter Usain Bolt as World Cup ambassador or promoting the World Cup during the recent Formula One race in Miami.

Cricket will need to grow at the grassroots level to divert the attention of the average American family from the world of baseball, NFL and NBA. “I definitely think the sport can grow in the US. When you are present in a country, people start getting attracted to it and want to know more about it,” Bolt, who hails from the cricket-loving Caribbean, told PTI in a recent interview.

Another reason for the people of America to connect with cricket is that their team is presenting a challenge in this competition. Most of the players in the US team are immigrants from South Asia, Caribbean and other countries. This team, which is making its debut in the World Cup, defeated Bangladesh 2-1 in the T20 International series and indicated its strong preparations to other countries. ‘USA Cricket’ chief Venu Pisike also believed that the ICC event will increase awareness about the game. However, its attraction will increase even more by becoming a part of the 2028 Olympics.

“Till now, cricket has been primarily an expatriate sport, but there has been some growth in its popularity due to the marketing and promotional activities during the World Cup. The World Cup will definitely boost the opportunities for the game to expand in the US,” Pisicke said. “The World Cup is making people aware of the sport and then cricket getting an opportunity to be included in the Olympics will definitely attract every community as the US is a big sporting nation,” he added. Last year saw the first professional league in the sport through Major League Cricket. Capturing the imagination of people about cricket in a country that is already crazy about many sports will be a big challenge for the ICC and other stakeholders.

Disclaimer: CricketInFocus has not edited this news. This news has been published from PTI-language feed.

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