September 25, 2007

USA

Speed excited by Twenty20 in USA

Will Luke

Will Luke

Is Twenty20 the catalyst to popularise cricket in the USA? Malcolm Speed, the ICC chief executive, is excited at what the shortened format could do to cricket in the States.

Baseballs reigns supreme, of course, but cricket enjoys a thriving community in America. And the USA were once an Associate member of the ICC, before they were suspended in March (again) for failing to adopt a new constitution. But the current administration has done little to inspire confidence and the incumbent president, Gladstone Dainty, is blamed (not entirely fairly) for many of the problems.

Nevertheless, Twenty20 could provide a much-needed injection of enthusiasm to USA’s cricket community.

"I heard today about an article in one of the Washington papers that was talking about the phenomenon of Twenty20 cricket,” Speed said. "It has been televised in the USA and it's been televised in China, so it's the perfect vehicle for cricket to develop in new countries.

"We've said many times that we don't expect cricket to be a major sport in the USA, but it's already a niche sport in the USA in that there are already lots of Indians, Pakistanis, Sri Lankans and West Indians who are there and they play cricket - we can build on that and Twenty20 is a great opportunity."

What are your thoughts? Is Twenty20 an adequate vehicle to promote the sport to borderline fans? Leave your comments below

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Will Luke is assistant editor of ESPNcricinfo

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Posted by Shawn Gilgore on (October 8, 2007, 3:21 GMT)

I agree with Correct, there's definitely a grassroots movement in cricket here in the US, and it seems to be alive and well. But there also needs to be a bigger influx of general interest in the sport with casual fans and players alike. I was born and raised a baseball fan, and it's most likely the first sport I ever learned, but after I picked up on cricket about a year and a half ago, I've never looked at either sport the same again. And I don't like how people just pass off the sport as "that weird game that looks like baseball, but takes forever", but I feel that mostly, it just has todo with both misinformation, and lack of exposure. Both of which I feel have something to do with the fact that it is nearly impossible to find a free, televised match on TV anywhere here in the States, we have coverage of several tours a year on Dish Network, and we also had the World Cup covered, if you wanted to pay the $200 to watch the entire tournament. I'm trying to get a club started at my college, where I think there's always some room for people to get involved. But until the people of this country have both more exposure to, and the open-mindedness to give a new sport a try, it will be very difficult for it to reach a major sporting status.

Posted by Borat on (September 28, 2007, 5:08 GMT)

I think ICC needs to keep in mind that USA can excel in cricket only if they come out with a new drink called "Borat's Energy Drink Which Brings Luck" for their players.

Posted by All Sports Fan on (September 28, 2007, 3:56 GMT)

Amjad, your analysis is spot on, as is that of the Fan. Without any major telecast rights any cricket venture in the USA would be Dead On Arrival. I am an expat who is an ardent follower of cricket as well as American sports - baseball, football, basketball and even a bit of ice hockey. I am teaching both my kids to follow all the sports as well but, frankly, see no hope of their catching on cricket in the long haul without a local team to follow. As Fan mentioned, LA Open couldn't sell tickets if their life depended on it which, as a business, is unsustainable. I guess ProCricket found that out too within 1 season.

What we really need is to have international tournaments at regular intervals to promote the game and then have the Beckhams of cricket play with well organized local clubs in the ProCricket style which are carried at least on ESPN2 or something to that extent. Why won't that happen? Because Speed and ICC, along with BCCI will never allow any other league to form and succeed, just like they are giving hell to Kapil in India. Anyone wondered where BCCI got the idea for their new 20/20 league with 8 franchised teams and TV rights etc.? Need go no further than read Amjad's analysis at the top and see the similarities for yourself.

Posted by misba on (September 28, 2007, 3:26 GMT)

actually im not sure lauderhill is the right place, new york would be good in all fairness. find a spot in the us that we know we will thrive just due to the sheer fact that even if the us citizens dont come to watch, there are so many pakistanis, indians, west indians, british, and australian ppl in that area that an international matches would get the popularity they do in there home country. hosting matches is really the quickest way to get money other then finding investors which is not, well we can see as we are suspended from the icc right now. all u need is a full STADUIM and two top international teams, and espn and all the other god forsaken sport tv channels will show us what cricket is really about. in terms of getting the game out to ppl in the us we dont put the money in the right places. ahh im rambling, but anyway thats what i see, i see a sure way to get a foothold in the us and not look back. even if its one foot in the us for cricket, we can hold it till we get two, and so on and so forth. it sounds like a surefire way to me. ----my thoughts.

Posted by misba on (September 28, 2007, 3:12 GMT)

i don't understand why we cant just build a real stadium, medium sized and start with international matches during to year to get money. Its really that simple to start out with, why are we talking about funding leagues when nobody in the us has seen the good players play? Build a real stadium in Lauderhill, post an office out there and move up into the united states. its that simple really. just a someone with a little ambition.

Posted by simon on (September 27, 2007, 23:32 GMT)

I think all you need to do, to begin with is focus on promoting the game at Ivy League Colleges of USA, get these colleges playing a 20/20 competition between one another and things will start to fall into place, these colleges have a lot of money and if a student cant make the baseball team they can go play for its evil step cousin 20/20. If 20/20 is to become an Olympic sport the students from these colleges maybe more enticed over baseball.

Posted by Asif Ahmad on (September 27, 2007, 15:53 GMT)

I agree with you Fan , I did not have to spend my money to start a very unique cricket learning facility, if I would have seen any response from so called proper organizations. I took my kids to Woodley for two years when they were young looking for some one to teach them cricket, but there was no one, they told me we are starting a program at Cerritos, and they would call me, no body did. After many disappointments, I started Cricket academy through the city of La mirada and we have a very highly qualified coach and knows a " lot about Cricket" His credentials will beat any one's for current or past in SCCA. I do not want to play a blame game. I think I am very happy that we have achieved what we dreamed about. We have over 50 kids trained at our Academy and are playing cricket at a pretty decent skill level and you think we know nothing about cricket. They are all born here and love the game. Look at Citrus Valley Stats on SCCA website, you will get the answers. It is not the money my friend , it is the passion. It is financially very difficult to maintain a ground like Fontana Cricket Ground. I was , however, slightly disappointed by your comment that we should just fold our cricket program , because we are not an organization. I thought, any one who knows cricket and loves the sport, will tell us " more power to you". Your ignorance has astonished me. I love La Open, that is why we are always there, my concern is with out income it would be hard to continue it. You did not understand what I was trying to say. I hope that explains.

Posted by Ali on (September 27, 2007, 7:37 GMT)

All this talk is nice, however I want to ask every one that what is the odds of success with Dainty, Masood, Selwyn, Pual and rest of the gang still running US cricket?

Posted by FreeTrav on (September 27, 2007, 2:53 GMT)

The major problem with cricket in the USA has been marketing - as near as I can tell, there has been NO attempt, not by USACA, not by ProCricket, not by the ICC, not by anyone, to reach out beyond the expat community into mainstream America. Certainly, Twenty20 would be a good vehicle to do so with; a match can run a mere three hours or so, about the same as a baseball game, and can have the same advantages to the fan as a baseball game: no need to allocate an entire day to be at the match location, not too long for school-age children, not to long for school or summer day camp 'field trips', if games are scheduled for evenings/nights, it becomes possible for the average worker to decide to go watch a match on the spur of the moment (assuming that tickets aren't sold out) - all of the reasons that baseball has become a commercial success apply to a 'half-day cricket' format like Twenty20.

Ultimately, USACA is going to be perceived as part of the problem. If ANY form of cricket is to succeed as a mainstream sport in the USA, it is going to take strong international backing and cooperation, from an organization that can and will tell USACA to go stuff and make it stick. It's clear that the ICC is, regrettably, not that organization; perhaps an independent coalition of cricket-based business organizations from countries where cricket is a national passion - for example, India, England, and Australia - could do it. It's not going to have immediate positive returns, however, and anyone who undertakes the project will need to have very deep pockets, and be willing to bleed red ink for a few years while they are building the market - not just advertising, but actually supporting and promoting development, e.g., in schools from primary to university, or in municipal leagues (similar to e.g., Little League Baseball).

Contrary to the popular image in the USA, cricket is NOT a complicated, arcane game; in some respects, it's simpler than baseball - but it has never been PRESENTED as such. Marketing cricket in the USA needs everything from advertising to development programs to a book 'Cricket for Dummies' to the staging of international events on US soil, and NOT just in Florida, Texas, or Los Angeles - ALL regions of the country must be visited, and most of the major cities (NYC, Chicago, Seattle, Atlanta, St. Louis, Denver, etc.) as well.

If an Australian can explain the game to me well enough that I can explain it to someone else (while at a game, so that there are examples of what I'm explaining), and very nearly create an instant fan in doing so, there's little doubt that the game can succeed in this country - but the first steps have to be MAKING the game accessible, and then SAYING so, loudly and often.

(Why is it easier to find DOMINOS on ESPN than it is CRICKET?)

Posted by xxxCORRECTxxx on (September 27, 2007, 1:44 GMT)

Twenty20 could be a big sport in the USA. I know that here in the New York area, 30% of residents were born in cricket-laying nations. The mistake is to try to make it "compete" with baseball. Baseball is, basically, nothing like cricket, unless you count their both being bat 'n ball games. Baseball is the spawn of rounders, not cricket. And who ever said the USA (pop. 400m+) isn't big enough to play and taken interest in both?

The usual "stereotype" of (non-cricket aware) Americans is that cricket's slow, lasts five days and always ends in a draw/tie. This stereotype is mostly perpetuated by "cricket lovers" from other countries who, as perverse humor, explain only "Test" cricket in the most complex terms possible to Americans, and then harp on about how it's impossible to understand and add a few "silly mid-offs" and "deep mid-wickets" just to make sure any interest is still born.

Twenty20 is impossible to dismiss as anything other than exciting, fast-paced, athletic and highly skilful. If America was starting from scratch today, they'd love cricket. They're not, of course, there's an entrenched cultural sporting scene here, but it's a big country and there's no reason cricket couldn't be a very big, mass participation/viewing sport. Not a whole lot it needed with the advent of Twenty20 to whet the appetite.

Certainly promoting cricket (to non-cricket playing nations) as a straightforward, attacking sport would be a start. Enough with needlessly complex introductions. At heart, the idea is still just to score more runs than your opponent whilst trying to get them out.

A Twenty20 World Cup in the Caribbean with 2/3 matches in the USA would be fantastic.

The 2 keys for the USA is to (1) focus on getting Twenty20 (NOT ODI's/Tests) onto regular, terrestrial TV in the USA - the bigger the network the better, and (2) getting Twenty20 into the Olympics. With over 2 billion people in playing countries, surely it's more of an Olympic draw than some of the dud sports they have?

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Will Luke
Assistant editor Will opted against a lifetime of head-bangingly dull administration in the NHS, where he had served for two years. In 2005 came a break at Cricinfo where he slotted right in as a ferociously enthusiastic tea drinker and maker, with a penchant for using "frankly" and "marvellous". He also runs The Corridor, a cricket blog where he can be found ranting and raving about all things - some even involving the sport. He is a great-great nephew of Sir Jack Newman, the former Wellingtonian bowler who took two wickets at 127 apiece for New Zealand.

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