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May 21, 2010

Cricket in gator country

Samir Chopra

The New Zealand - Sri Lanka series could open the door for cricket to take root in the US © CCUSA

The significance of the Sri Lanka versus New Zealand bilateral T20 series, which is due to kick off on May 22nd, is considerably enhanced by a quick look at the location of their clash: Central Broward Regional Park, Lauderhill, Florida; a classic "no-bad-seats-in-the-house" ballpark common in the minor-league baseball world.

International cricket has finally arrived in the US. And unsurprisingly it is the T20 variant that has breached the ramparts and made it over the top.

There are several reasons why this development should be of interest. Firstly, a new international venue in a minor cricketing country always holds the potential to broaden cricket's player and fan base (success in Florida might see the development of a parallel situation in California).

Secondly, for the fans that live in the US in semi-exile, this provides a fix for the craving for live cricket. Lastly, and most significantly for me, cricket in the US has always been shown in its genteel, park cricket variant. One of my beefs with Joseph O'Neill's excellent Netherland was that his authorial energies and talents were devoted to lyrical descriptions of relatively mellow park cricket. This will be top-class international cricket, and in a small venue, the power, speed and athleticism of a T20 cricketer will be on full display for an American viewer (and will hopefully lead us away from the situation I bemoaned in these columns some time ago).

Thirdly, there are several lip-smacking potential matchups possible in the future. Obviously, any game involving India will attract large crowds but I suspect West Indies, England, and Pakistan games would also do well. Florida is easily accessible from those areas on the East Coast that feature large Indian, Pakistani and West Indian populations (Florida itself is home to a large immigrant community from the Caribbean). English fans are numerous on the East Coast and will no doubt travel in significant numbers. Given the globetrotting capacities of the Barmy Army, they will feature at Florida games (what's not to like about a destination featuring beaches and beer?).

In general, Fort Lauderdale's proximity to East Coast cities and the short-n-sweet nature of the series makes for a great cricketing vacation. Jump on a short flight to Florida, rent a car, check into a hotel, hit the beaches, go to the game, then back to the beaches after the game. (Harried parents might combine this with a Disneyland trip up north).

Most ambitiously, I forecast the following: young Americans, no matter what their ethnic background, might be sufficiently enthused by the international version of the game to think about playing the game seriously. It is not inconceivable that down the line there will be Americans vying for spots in the future global versions of the IPL, participating in a true free market of cricketing labour. OK, I'm done with my pipedreams.

There are concerns, of course (the floodlight snafu is a small example). Will the pitches be conducive to good cricket? The local authorities have taken this seriously and appear to have sought expert assistance in the form of a Kiwi groundsman. Will the games have the atmosphere associated with an international T20? Given the India-Pakistan experiences in Toronto, I don't see why not. Will large enough crowds turn up to make this into a worthwhile investment? As indicated above, I think that for the right matchups, finding large crowds will not be a problem, provided the local association gets the word out at the right time in the right places.

Cricket in the US might still go the way of many other curiosities that have made splashy appearances on these shores, only to be followed by slides into obscurity. For now though, it's time to give the Destination USA folks' adventure a fair chance.

Samir Chopra lives in Brooklyn and teaches Philosophy at the City University of New York. He tweets here

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Posted by WP Themes on (July 1, 2010, 0:40 GMT)

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Posted by Hitesh Lohani on (June 11, 2010, 3:37 GMT)

Sorry, I seem to have miscalculated my assumption of NY-FL distance. Yes, it will at least take 20+ hours to reach there. My bad for saying 6-7 hours earlier. Now that I think of it, that's NY-DC distance and Washington DC is far from Florida.

Posted by cricketiloveit on (May 29, 2010, 19:19 GMT)

I was at the 2nd match and was quite impressed with the facilities except the wicket which spoilt to some extent the occasion. Nevertheless it was a good start. Bring on India & Pakistan to ensure a really good crowd. Also I think they need to market this form of cricket under another name in the US. Americans are fiercely proud of their homegrown games & some people regard games from the former colonial master as eccentric & un-American. Give it some sort of zippy name (PowerPlay or something similar that sounds exciting for this instant gratification seeking & reality show society) & market it that way (cricket can be in the sub-text). Even on a bad day cricket (especially 20/20) has more excitement in 6 balls than happens in a whole baseball game. It just has to be marketing right. Cricket also has the advantage of natural breaks that makes it a superb game for commercial TV - because in the end sport in the US is all about money (one of the reasons why soccer is still not big).

Posted by A Cricket Enthusiast on (May 27, 2010, 4:13 GMT)

Re:Chris - Wish you all the very best in your endeavours

Posted by Getting An Ex Back on (May 26, 2010, 0:23 GMT)

This post provides the light in which we can observe the reality. this is very good one and gives indepth info. many thanks for this nice post.

Posted by CS on (May 24, 2010, 7:39 GMT)

Should have just waited they get a stadium going in New Jersy or something. The best way to promote cricket in USA is by exposing school kids to it.

Posted by Karan on (May 23, 2010, 11:20 GMT)

Cricket in the US will never ever become a mainstream sport. US has over six proper sports with statewide attention and over exposure. There is simply no room and need for another sport a'la golf or an english version(T20) of bang-bang baseball. There are not enough south asian fans to sustain the sport either. As rightly said, let america play their own games..

Posted by pankaj on (May 23, 2010, 9:42 GMT)

well, after all it's a huge step taken by USAKA, Mr. locerbie needs to be applauded for all this it's because of him this has been possible. Now what the full members or ICC needs to do is play gemes in states on annual basis,and i think it will bear fruit sooner rather than later.

Posted by chris price on (May 23, 2010, 4:41 GMT)

Didnt even show it in NZ, What I have read the pitch was not really up to scratch, We have this chance to put cricket in front of the US and we need good pitch good advertising and a vocal wild crowd to show it it its best. What was the attendence???

Posted by Shahid on (May 23, 2010, 3:15 GMT)

If this is the best pitch that you can offer in the USA then forget about ANY international cricket establishing in USA. Pathetic to see accomplished batsmen being reduced to scratching for runs. BAD pitches will kill any chances of cricket firing the imagination of Americans.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Samir Chopra
Samir Chopra lives in Brooklyn and teaches Philosophy at the City University of New York. He runs the blogs at samirchopra.com and Eye on Cricket. His book on the changing face of modern cricket, Brave New Pitch: The Evolution of Modern Cricket has been published by HarperCollins. Before The Cordon, he blogged on The Pitch and Different Strokes on ESPNcricinfo. @EyeonthePitch

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