T20 World Cup 2024: Leap to US for a slice of biggest sport market?

A India-Pakistan tie in New York to work wonders for the tired profile of the sport

Altogether 16 matches will be held across New York (photo: courtesy ICC)
Altogether 16 matches will be held across New York (photo: courtesy ICC)

Gautam Bhattacharyya

It’s not that India and Pakistan have not locked horns in that part of the world before. The Sahara Cup ODI contests, which took place for three years between 1996 and 1998 at the Toronto Cricket, Skating and Curling Club ground – with marquee names on either side – was quite a successful experiment. 

However, the one scheduled on 9 June in New York, the obligatory group game in the T20 World Cup is going to be the real deal. The fixture will be played in a 34,000-seat, modular stadium just 30 miles east of downtown Manhattan in Nassau County, New York – not the kind of capacity one would fancy after even the 130,000-capacity in Ahmedabad went choc-a-bloc during their 50-overs World Cup match a few months back. 

The decision to rope in the US as co-hosts alongwith the Caribbean, which had actually hosted the 2010 edition but is all but forgotten, has been a masterstroke for a sport where the law of diminishing returns has set in for sometime now. Truth be told, the shortest format had been the priority area for the establishment, the cricket boards who are leaving no stone unturned to make their franchise leagues a success (even if that means sending second-string teams for overseas Test series coinciding with the league) as this is what sells – while the longest format is on it’s last throes and the ODIs are fighting for relevance. 

Now that the ICC has decided to host a World T20 every two years, there is a desperate need to look at an untapped frontier like the US which in the words of ICC Chief Executive Geoff Allardice, is the world’s ‘biggest sports market.’ The overwhelming presence of diaspora will ensure that the stadia with modest capacities are filled up easily, while the joie de vivre which accompanies franchise league fixtures in the US (be it baseball, NBA and NFL) will be a perfect fit for the ambience these games feast on.  

The first edition of Major League Cricket (MLC), a six-team affair that took place in Grand Prairie, Texas and Morrisville, North Carolina last July was a modest success – but the plan clearly was to set up an appetiser for the group league matches of the World T20 come June. Altogether 16 matches will be held across New York, Dallas and Lauderhill while the organisers made sure that crowd-pullers India and Pakistan’s matches against the US and Canada, respectively, are also staged in the US.  

“The release of the fixtures is made even more exciting for fans as we enter a new frontier, with the USA hosting a major ICC event for the first time. With 16 matches being played across three venues in the USA, it allows us to make a statement in the world’s biggest sports market,’’ Allardice said after the release of fixtures for the June 1-29 showpiece. 

Meanwhile, Vijay Srinivasan, co-founder of MLC said on the occasion: “Major League Cricket is delighted to host the marquee opening match for the biggest-ever ICC Men’s T20 World Cup at the premier MLC venue, Grand Prairie Cricket Stadium in North Texas. We know that cricket fans from across the country will be out in force on June 1 as the United States hosts Canada in the curtain-raiser for the tournament. The match will mark a new chapter in a rivalry dating back longer than any other in international cricket, all the way to 1844.’’ 

 A look at the 20 teams have been divided into four groups of five with the top two teams progressing to the Super Eights: 

Group A: India, Pakistan, Ireland, Canada and the USA 

Group B: England, Australia, Namibia, Scotland and Oman 

Group C: New Zealand, the West Indies, Afghanistan, Uganda and Papua New Guinea 

Group D: South Africa, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, the Netherlands and Nepal. 

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