The field has been constructed, and the dream is in place. On Thursday, Major League Cricket will finally begin play outside of Dallas. But will they show up?
The leaders of cricket have long desired success in the United States. In a repurposed baseball stadium (capacity: 7,200) outside of Dallas, the biggest, wealthiest attempt yet to get Americans hooked on cricket

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will start on Thursday. The new league, Major League Cricket, has money: about $50 million has already been spent, and another $130 million is on the way. Its patrons are well-off: The list of prominent Indian-American tech professionals who have agreed to invest in the new company is headed by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.

It has the blessing of an International Cricket Council desperate to lift its sport’s profile in America ahead of the 2024 T20 World Cup, which will be co-hosted by the United States and the West Indies. It has powerful allies: four Indian Premier League franchises and two state cricket bodies from Australia have


signed on as either full owners or operational partners for the fledgling league’s six founding teams. It has a slot in the international cricket calendar that’s relatively uncrowded, with only the men’s and women’s Ashes as real competition for the committed global cricket fan’s attention. It has a list of team names that

combine, in delightfully unbound American style, the patriotic (Washington Freedom) and ecological (Seattle Orcas) with the borrowed-from-the-IPL nonsensical (MI New York).
The fact that it has players—some of whom are incredibly talented—is most significant. The new competition features genuine stardust of Wanindu Hasaranga, Kagiso Rabada, Tim David, and Anrich

Nortje, among many other seasoned T20 internationals who have made the trek out to the suburbs of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex to help launch cricket’s newest big shot at success in America. (Corne Dry, anyone?) Sprinkled among the little-known local talents (Corne Dry, anyone?) are the new competition. Will there be any watchers of Major League Cricket, though?
Will the American public be enthralled by the sight of Aaron Finch throwing a powerful throw through

midwicket? Will it eventually learn to regret the missed potential of a wasted PowerPlay, as millions of cricket fans do already? Will it mature to appreciate the finer elements of a topless Faf du Plessis cameo on the player balcony or an Adam Zampa strangler down leg side? The Texas AirHogs’ former home field has just undergone the finishing touches necessary to transform it into an international-level cricket


stadium, including the marking of the boundary barrier, the installation of the turf wicket, and the engineering of the outfield. The field has been constructed, and the dream is in place. Will they, though?
The history of the flatter-batted of the bat and ball sports in the United States provides some basis for caution. Vying with baseball for local supremacy in the late 19th century, cricket enjoyed a brief American

“golden age” thanks to the exertions of the Philadelphia Cricket Club, once seen as the equal of the best international teams. But Britain’s late-imperial insecurity saw the US frozen out of international competition, and American cricket went into a rapid and seemingly irreversible decline in the years following the first world war. Since the turn of this century there have been several failed attempts to launch a professional domestic cricket league: Pro Cricket, a prototype of T20 cricket, played a single

season in 2004 before folding, while the original ‘Major League Cricket’, launched in 2005 with the patronage of West Indian greats Clive Lloyd and Desmond Haynes, quickly fizzled into insignificance. Shane Warne and Sachin Tendulkar hosted a series of exhibition matches across the US in 2015 that got expats and immigrants of South Asian, Caribbean and Australian backgrounds excited but no one else.


How many times can a sport this old to America be rebranded as something exotic and new? Compounding the inauspiciousness of this history are the troubles facing USA Cricket. The administration and finances of cricket’s governing body in America are a mess, continuing a long history of

mismanagement of the sport in this country; the previous governing body was expelled by the ICC in 2017. USA Cricket will have no permanent CEO in place when Major League Cricket launches on Thursday night.

MLC’s organizers recognize that the road ahead presents some obstacles: “We are somewhat concerned by and appreciative of USA Cricket’s struggles,” says Sameer Mehta, one of the league’s co-CEOs. But he and his fellow founder, Vijay Srinivasan, are thinking big. Mehta and Srinivasan launched Willow TV, the primary streaming app for cricket in the US, in the early 2000s, before selling it to The Times Group,

India vs. West Indies
India vs. West Indies

India’s biggest media conglomerate, in 2016. With the money and connections from that sale they have created Major League Cricket, and they believe the time is finally right for America to fully embrace the flat-batted sport. Partly this is because of the recent “cosmopolitan turn” among American sports fans, who are now just as likely to tune in to the late laps from Monza (the Drive to Survive effect, let’s call it) or

Brentford v West Ham as they are to enjoy local pro sports. Mostly, though, it’s a function of the growing economic clout and cultural self-confidence of America’s Indian population – almost five million strong, fantastically wealthy (at $140,000, Indian Americans have the highest per capita household wealth of any ethnic group in the US), and growing rapidly thanks to Silicon Valley’s inexhaustible thirst for South Asian tech talent. “It’s insane how successful this community has become so quickly in the last couple of decades,” says Mehta. “But they haven’t brought their culture with them. It’s only very recently that they are flexing their muscles.” Major League Cricket looms as the Indian American community’s next big flex.

Can a sport with serious financial backing and an existing fan base among America’s ex-Commonwealth migrant population strike gold in the land of the free? Can the transmitted enthusiasm of the Australian flat white makers of Brooklyn help unleash cricket fever across all 50 states? At times it can feel difficult to imagine how this experiment might succeed. Talking to Americans about cricket is usually about as easy

as explaining climate change to a ferret. But for MLC, a template of sorts exists. From its “anchor” fan base among the country’s Hispanic migrant population, Major League Soccer has expanded at such a rate over the past two decades that the round ball game now outranks hockey on most metrics as America’s fourth most popular sport. Cricket is arguably a tougher sell to the American public than soccer: it’s played by

fewer countries at elite level, and the sport’s global profusion of formats and competitions means cricket lacks some of the clarity of football’s cultural hierarchy, under which Europe’s top domestic leagues are unanimously considered the pinnacle of competition. But if any “foreign” sport is going to break through and make it in America, why not this one?

MLC’s backers think they have the goods to win over the American heartland. Mehta insists the league is not a play to win Indian viewership but a direct gamble on the sport’s potential appeal to Americans; each of the founding franchises has committed to building a stadium in its home city so the league can evolve

as a proper home-and-away competition in the years to come. The league is making all the right noises about professional “pathways” for domestic cricketers, developing local talent, and so on. Teams are required to fit a minimum of nine local players under the squad salary cap of $1.15m; up to nine overseas players can be selected but a maximum of six are allowed in each starting XI. Games for the inaugural

tournament have been scheduled mostly at night to cater to US viewers, rather than during hours more suitable to the TV audience in India. “Americans don’t like to be lectured about a sport that’s being played elsewhere,” says Mehta. “But if the sport’s being played in their country right next to them, they are absolute sports fanatics, and they will sample anything and everything. Our view is that T20 is an

amazing sport for US consumption and for US audiences. It fits in with what Americans like to consume: it’s three hours long, there’s lots of action, it has some similarities with baseball but then has a lot of compelling differences also.”

The format of the inaugural tournament is straightforward: the six teams will play each other once, and the top four sides will contest three qualification and elimination games before the final is held on 30 July. Three of the group games will be played at a 3,000-capacity ground in North Carolina; the rest will take

place at Grand Prairie Stadium in Dallas. Major League Cricket is promising a 30-camera, world class broadcast production at both venues for the games, which will be shown live on Willow TV, with a mainstream broadcast partner set to be announced before the opening fixture. In future years, Mehta hopes, the league will expand to 10 teams with a longer season.

The teams for the inaugural season seem genuinely competitive and evenly matched, with the possible exception of the Seattle Orcas, who are likely to depend very heavily on the fluctuating powers of Quinton de Kock. The San Francisco Unicorns sport incredible hitting strength (Aaron Finch, Marcus

Stoinis, Matthew Wade), while Washington Freedom have perhaps the league’s most balanced squad, boasting pace (Nortje, Marco Jansen), middle-order power (Josh Philippe, Moises Henriques), and world cricket’s best T20 all-rounder (Hasaranga). The Los Angeles Knight Riders mix T20 A-listers (Adam Zampa, Jason Roy), veterans (Martin Guptill), exuberantly named locals (Shadley van Schalkwyk), and mercurial

post-international mercenaries capable of devastating displays of power hitting (Andre Russell, Rilee Roussow) in a proportion that already feels, despite the league’s immaturity, canonical.

The Texas Super Kings, meanwhile, are very dependent on du Plessis and an aging Dwayne Bravo, but they also boast dual-passport Australian-American “local” Cameron Stevenson, who’s the only player in the tournament to have his profile photo featured on both the official Cricket website and the “about” page

of a Melbourne-based civil engineering firm. Stevenson played professional cricket for Tasmania for two years until 2018 and now works as an engineer for the firm that reshaped Grand Prairie Stadium into a cricket ground; he qualifies as a local for MLC purposes thanks to his American mother. It’s curiosities like

this that give MLC its special charm, but the magic is not confined solely to the league’s less heralded names. Celebrated ex-players want their part of history: Stephen Fleming, Lasith Malinga, and Shane Watson are all involved in MLC as coaches. MI New York boast an outstanding bowling attack that includes Rabada, Trent Boult and Jason Behrendorff, but its crowning glory is Rashid Khan, captain of

Afghanistan and the world’s top ranked T20 bowler. More than two decades on from the US-led invasion of Afghanistan, Major League Cricket presents the tantalizing prospect of a genuine Afghan superstar – a man who grew up in the kiln of the US occupation and whose family was forced into exile for several years during the worst of the violence – exhibiting his wrist-spinning artistry on an American field of play.

Despite the sport’s long history in the US, cricket’s latest assault on America feels somehow novel, like the stage for a fresh encounter between two parts of the world that have rarely understood each other in anything other than antagonistic terms.

As the Texas Super Kings and Los Angeles Knight Riders get ready to launch the league under lights at Grand Prairie Stadium on Thursday night, possibility and peril hover over Major League Cricket in equal

measure, along with a faint air of mystery. What is it that’s driven this curious collection of Silicon Valley executives, journeyman foreign cricket administrators, obscure local players and star international cricketers to gather in a converted baseball stadium in suburban Dallas for three weeks in the middle of the Texas summer? Does cricket, growing impressively in its core markets and wildly popular among the

two billion people of South Asia, really need America? It seems like the collective motivation here involves something more than just money, something to do with the abiding need for the rest of the world to feel validated by finding success in America (though it may just be money). Texas Super Kings assistant coach Eric Simons has claimed – half-jokingly, one assumes, but only half – that one day his team will be “bigger

than the New York Yankees”. Soma Somasegar, a Seattle-based venture capitalist who’s one of the leading investors in MLC, believes in “the potential for the United States to become one of the leading cricket nations in the world”. Measuring that bounding ambition against the reality of the league’s first

tournament should make for a fascinating Cricket , both on and off the field. The international stars have arrived. The local talent is emerging. And the VC money is in the bank. The rest, now, is down to America and its 330 million-strong sports- and TV-mad public.

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