We don’t want to be just another T20 league, says top Major League Cricket official

Tom Dunmore, Vice President, feels there is room for both the new league and Caribbean Premier League to co-exist in the same market

Tom Dunmore is upbeat about the quality of some of the local talent playing in the competition (Photo: MLC)
Tom Dunmore is upbeat about the quality of some of the local talent playing in the competition (Photo: MLC)

Gautam Bhattacharyya

The first-ever Major League Cricket (MLC), the T20 franchise league which kicked off in the US last week, has been a job well begun but there is still a long way to go – according to one of their top officials.

‘’The project had been a long time coming. While the initial response has been extremely encouraging with the lung opener (Texas Super Kings and Los Angeles Knight Riders) being a sellout while so is the final, but it’s still early days to comment on the success,’’ said Tom Dunmore, vice president (Marketing) of the league.

A six-team affair with matches being played in two venues in Texas and North Carolina, the MLC has evoked a fair degree of interest among the cricket playing nations of the world – thanks largely to curiosity value as the sport had failed to capture the imagination in the US on a sustained basis, along with a decent line-up of some of the heavyweights in this format of the game.

Speaking to the National Herald during a zoom interview, Dunmore, a key figure behind developing the Minor League Cricket before this, said they want to be in it for the long haul. ‘’We do not want to be yet another T20 league in the sport. I can assure you from my experience in the Minor League that there are enough young, quality cricketers there from whom we have built the core of these six teams. It will be really worth the effort if we can see the US play in the T20 World Cup in future,’’ he said.

For all it’s reputation of being the home to some of the best organised and marketed franchise leagues of the world, the US had been slow to warm up to a sport like football – despite hosting the Fifa World Cup once and playing in the finals several times. The Major League Soccer (MLS), which has wooed superstar Lionel Messi for the upcoming season, is still considered more as a retirement hub for the big stars rather than it's competition.

‘’The quality of active global stars whom we assembled in the first edition of the MLC is not seen in MLS. You cannot possibly get the likes of a Neymar to play here while still at his prime, but we have got some of the biggest impact players of T20 on board. I myself cannot wait to watch Rashid Khan, one of the biggest crowd-pullers, bowl here,’’ Dunmore said.

Apart from Khan, some of the other marquee names in fray are South Africa's Faf du Plessis, Quinton de Kock and David Miller; Australia's Marcus Stoinis, Aaron Finch; England’s Jason Roy and West Indian Andre Russell.

Sensing the opportunity to leave a global footprint in this fledgling league, four of the IPL franchise owners have thrown their hats in the ring – MI New York (owned by Indiawin Sports, a subsidiary of Reliance Industries), Los Angeles Knight Riders (Knight Riders Group), Texas Super Kings (co-owned by Chennai Super Kings) and Seattle Orcas (co-owned by GMR Group of Delhi Capitals and Microsoft chairman & CEO Satya Nadella). The other owners are also Indian business tycoons alongwith Henry Ross Perot Jr, an American real estate developer.

Asked what could have interested the investors, Dunmore said: ‘’They could have sensed the potential commercial viability of the league, but we have also noticed that they were extremely passionate about bringing the project here. It’s a great sign but then, you are not going to make money from Day I.’’

The fact that the West Indies and the US will be co-hosting the 2024 World T20 has added more context to the opening edition of MLC. However, will the presence of two franchise leagues in the same part of the world – with the Caribbean Premier League (CPL) starting from August 17 – be a case of one league too many?

Brushing away such a suggestion, the MLC official said: ‘’There is enough room for both MLC and CPL to co-exist in this part of the world. The CPL has been around for quite some (it started in 2013) and we have benefitted from a lot of cross pollination between the cricket of both countries. We hope that the West Indies cricket will soon find it’s way back in the top bracket.’’

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