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USA T20 threatens to undermine English season

David Hopps and Peter Della Penna

September 1, 2012

Comments: 39 | Text size: A | A

A fan with plenty of US flags, West Indies v New Zealand, 1st Twenty20, Florida, June 30, 2012
The Americans are coming - and it spells a further threat for England's traditional cricketing summer © AFP
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England's traditional cricketing summer, already under siege from the expanding ambitions of IPL, must face up to another unwelcome challenge next week when meetings take place in London to promote a United States Twenty20 league planned to launch next July with a host of international stars.

The league will be launched in direct competition to the English season with ambitions to attract many of the world's top stars for what Neil Maxwell, one of the main proponents, is presenting to the States as "baseball on steroids."

Maxwell also freely admitted that USA promoters are monitoring tense negotiations between the ECB and Kevin Pietersen, which will determine whether he has an England future. Maxwell told ESPNcricinfo: "We haven't spoken to Pietersen as yet. We are keen to work through the Boards to ensure the appropriate processes a followed. Once his position and ours is clarified we will no doubt chat."

Pietersen's choice of whether he commits himself to a serious future on the Test circuit - which he told England he would on a specially-commisioned YouTube video - or becomes an itinerant player, making a fortune on the Twenty20 circuit, could now not be more stark.

England will be slap bang in the middle of an Ashes summer, and will automatically be unavailable, but if UST20 succeeds it will cause further disruption for a county circuit already struggling to find overseas players of quality, including for a long-standing t20 tournament that is struggling to compete with newer, brasher competitors.

While the ECB continues to agonise over the future make-up of its t20 competition, which earlier this week lost its sponsor, Friends Life, promoters from the United States are heading for London to begin the tender process for six inaugural franchises, with ambitions to grow to as many as ten by 2016,

The league would most likely get underway after the conclusion of the ICC Champions Trophy, which takes runs from June 6-23 in England. The 2013 Ashes Series then follows, which means that top international stars from Australia and England would be unavailable but players from other countries might be tempted by the prospect of coming to play in America.

Cricket Holdings America, a joint venture headed by the USA Cricket Association and New Zealand Cricket, has also declared ambitions for the USA to apply and secure hosting rights for future ICC events, including the ICC World Twenty20 within the next 10 years.

In addition to taking bids for franchises starting this month, CHA also plans to host exhibition matches in the USA next year between imported stars and local talent.

The population in the USA with South Asian background has doubled in ten years, leaving promoters convinced that the time is right to launch what will initially be a league relying entirely on imported talent.

Maxwell, a CHA director, told The Times this week that the success of ESPNcricinfo in the United States was further proof that a market exists. There is little pretence, however, about educating an American audience, initially at least, about the finer points of the game.

"Our marketing has to appeal to mainstream America," he said. "It's about promoting an entertainment product. Almost remove the reference to cricket and create a thing called Twenty20 that competes with movies. Link it to Hollywood and Bollywood and provide all the razzmatazz that goes with it."

CHA hopes for the league to grow to as many as 10 franchises by 2016. The first season, reports suggest, will be played primarily in New York and San Francisco. New York has thriving West Indian and South Asian immigrant populations, particularly in Brooklyn and Queens, while the San Francisco Bay Area includes Silicon Valley, where thousands of South Asians have immigrated over the years for work in the software and technology industries.

If the league does launch franchises in New York and San Francisco, it would be highly probable that matches in those cities would be played on artificial pitches. While both cities are home to multiple professional sports teams with outdoor stadiums that hold in excess of 40,000 seats, neither city has an international standard natural turf wicket facility exclusively for cricket and it is doubtful that one would be built to be ready in time for next summer.

Currently, the only facility in the USA that is approved by the ICC for use in Twenty20 and ODI matches is the Central Broward Regional Park in Lauderhill, Florida. Two t20 internationals between New Zealand and West Indies in Florida in July attracted decent crowds

A Twenty20 league launched in the summer months would primarily be competing for fan and media interest inside the USA with mid-season Major League Baseball and Major League Soccer. The NHL and NBA typically finish their play-offs by the middle of June while the NFL, currently the most popular professional league in the USA, starts its regular season every September.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by ed.dixon on (September 4, 2012, 8:54 GMT)

Lunacy. Complete lunacy. All discussions in the US with regard to cricket begin and end with the question 'whaddya mean the batter doesn't have to run if he hits the ball?'.

It'll be like the 'World League' that the NFL tried to foist on us in the early 90s with the 'London Mon-archs' that captured so much public attention. Not.

To have the tiniest chance of this working, the organisers have to get a couple of mainstream colleges on board first, and then build a working league that doesn't rely completely on imported players or collapse in a shower of corruption and bribery scandals and in about 10 years time, maybe, just maybe they can start thinking on this sort of crazy T20 level. By then they'll be at the stage the Afghanistan, Ireland or Holland are now. Oh.

Posted by   on (September 3, 2012, 8:57 GMT)

Yes....artificial pitches, hide the finer points of the game, add razzmatazz, adverts between every delivery...I can already see Americans flocking to the stadiums or glued to their TV screens.

Posted by rajeshann on (September 3, 2012, 6:59 GMT)

You must having a laugh. Agree with Puffin.

Posted by YorkshirePudding on (September 3, 2012, 6:44 GMT)

@Harvey, if the proposed franchises were aligned with Baseball/American football teams then they would have a built in fan base to exploit, dont forget a T20 game is about as long as a the average Baseball game. So I dont think theres much to worry about in regards to getting enough people into a stadium. The biggest issue is the lack of proper grounds, so for 2-3 years they'll largely be playing on artificial wickets while more traditional wickets are prepared and seasoned, this leads to an interesting point about ground staff, where will the curators come from as most work for years developing an understanding of thier pitches and perperation, something the americans dont have, this was shown in the recent WI vs NZ games in Florida, while granted international status they were probably just equivalent to minor county/grade cricket pitches in England/Aus.

Posted by harshini1980 on (September 3, 2012, 4:33 GMT)

Looks like Indians have got a bit worried, maybe thinking this might take over IPL. You can relax. it wont happen. At least not for now. but eventually it will die off. Just like American Idol. and something new will be the thing.

Posted by   on (September 2, 2012, 22:13 GMT)

It should be American T20 NOT cricket and Audience won't be Cricket fans.

Posted by Harvey on (September 2, 2012, 20:02 GMT)

@Meety - I agree there is a market for cricket in the US (and Canada). However, as the organisers themselves admit, in order to make this project feasible they will need to drastically increase the size of that market. That's something that even Stanford with his saturation advertising funded by many millions of dollars of other people's money failed to do. That's where it falls down. In any case, T20 tournaments so far (even the IPL) have depended mainly on domestic players plus a handful of imports. That keeps the cost down to manageable levels. A US based tournament would depend pretty much entirely on imports because neither the grass roots organisation nor the infrastructure exist to enable North American-based players to reach a high enough standard. Cricket in the US can prosper and grow, as other minority sports manage to, but this plan is simply pie in the sky. I'll be surprised if it happens at all, let alone successfully.

Posted by Jon9 on (September 2, 2012, 19:12 GMT)

The ICC should be insting money in countries where there is a passion for the sport such as Afghanistan and East Africa and bringing Bangladesh (and other countries) up to Test standard.

Posted by Jon9 on (September 2, 2012, 19:06 GMT)

Good luck to them - but it'll have to be a TV event only, IMHO.

I used to live in America, there is a very small (and spread out) ingenious audience for cricket. Trying to sell it as a completely new sport called"T20" doesn't alter that fact.

That atmosphere there is likely to be as dismal as it is in the UAE, largely empty stadiums because there is no tradition of cricket/T20 in the Middle East.

Posted by   on (September 2, 2012, 16:44 GMT)

Did anyone else scroll to the bottom of this article, to see if there was an "all 'facts' contained within this article are made up" disclaimer, a la Page 2?

No? Just me? Cricket will never be more than a minority sport in the USA in my opinion. Hockey, basketball, baseball and American Football have most sporting tastes covered between them.

Posted by Geoffa on (September 2, 2012, 13:57 GMT)

Why don't we just have a break from real cricket mid-march to mid-may and play all the 20/20 tournaments worldwide in that period.

Posted by yorkshirematt on (September 2, 2012, 13:48 GMT)

Cricket in America will undermine the English season? I've heard it all now. I give this project 12 months max before it collapses

Posted by RandyOZ on (September 2, 2012, 13:15 GMT)

WOuld be much more ineteresting than watching england play cricket, or any of the county sides for that matter.

Posted by   on (September 2, 2012, 12:59 GMT)

This will be Stanford 2020 but worse. The ECB have nothing to worry about.

Posted by Meety on (September 2, 2012, 12:43 GMT)

@Puffin - the way I see it, the USA has an Indo-asian population about double the size of Oz, so I think it does not have to compete with Baseball. It wasn't that long ago that Soccer was a complete minority sport in the US, it's still well behind the big 3 in the US, but it has a sustainable following now, cricket CAN do the same.

Posted by   on (September 2, 2012, 12:05 GMT)

Minor Sport or not, that can still mean pretty large revenues in the good ole USA, I would have thought. If they can lure Beckham than surely KP or Chris Gayle can't be a problem. Straussy surely wouldn't say no to a few quick bucks and a bit of sunshine. I don't see a lack of money or players being the problem here, cricketing infrastructure may be another matter.

Posted by MrMankad on (September 2, 2012, 8:44 GMT)

Good to hear that cricket is being promoted world-wide. Of all the formats, T20 seems most likely to be attract to audiences in the US. Worth a shot.

And why for heavens sake are we obsessed about the what one provincial little island thinks. Also this wont threaten didley squat in England, since no is lining up to hire English players anyway.

The game of cricket is not the proprietary keep of the English. May it flourish in all its myriad forms everywhere in the world.

Posted by Puffin on (September 2, 2012, 0:12 GMT)

When I first read the headline I thought "this is ominous" but now I think that any form of cricket will make little headway against its most obvious competitor, baseball. I have seen baseball games in the US and it's going to be difficult to challenge for popularity there.

There are other places in the world that might set up such a league where there is no strong similar game going on already and where there is a potentially big audience. That's really going to complicate things more than the US.

Posted by ashes61 on (September 1, 2012, 22:55 GMT)

Threatens to undermine Engish season? Oh, come on!

Posted by   on (September 1, 2012, 19:10 GMT)

All fads have their time - & run out eventually, in my opinion. T20 isn't a great success in the UK - too many average sides and no opportunity for long warm evenings. Test cricket will continue to thrive, maybe in England primarily, but that doesn't mean it is the best solution. The worst thing the ECB can do is overreact. I like John-Price's advice the best - get wages in advance! because as sure as night follows day, one of these high profile leagues will implode as the money men and agents take all the 'gate-money / TV money supposedly for the players.

Posted by Syed_imran_abbas on (September 1, 2012, 18:10 GMT)

Oh God.. Cricket in america.. no plzzz..... May God save cricket. ICC should be uniformed fair and strong.

Posted by bigfrank on (September 1, 2012, 16:50 GMT)

None of my friends who are cricket fans listened to me back in 2003 when,after the first season of T20 I told them all it's an abomination and would ruin Test cricket.Test match series are rarely 5 games now,more often only 2 (which is no real test of the comparisons between international sides) and soon will be one off games as everybody will insist on playing in the various T20 leagues around the world for the big bucks,and thus be unavailable for Test cricket.Well done ECB.

Posted by bobmartin on (September 1, 2012, 16:18 GMT)

The reason IPL and its offsprings have taken off is because they all take place in countries where crciket is a major sport which already attracts large TV audiences...If the American version of T20 doesn't attract a major audience share it will go the way of all other programmes that haven't done so.. down the tubes.

Posted by   on (September 1, 2012, 16:13 GMT)

No danger to English season as cricket will never grow big in USA as the Americans will never understand the game and rules and the wider population will never ever follow cricket so ECB and cricket fans in England ,please don't worry and the ashes next summer will be bigger.

Posted by Harvey on (September 1, 2012, 15:55 GMT)

Yawn... I see no threat whatsoever to the English season in this plan. Maybe KP will be tempted to go over there, since he'll hopefully have nothing else to do in England next summer except play for Surrey. I hope for his sake if he does take part in this competition that he demands to be paid up-front though.

Posted by Narkovian on (September 1, 2012, 15:19 GMT)

No threat to English season. Cricket will never take off in USA. How longer has "soccer" tried. Still only a minor sport. That's not to say someone won't offer silly money to players to go and play. Well if overseas "stars" ( sic) want to go there that will be good for us. Fed up with so many foreign players blocking up the path for ENG cricketers in the counties. there should be a far bigger restrcition on them anyway. KP ? If he wants to go... then bye bye.. won't miss you.

Posted by Htc-Android on (September 1, 2012, 15:07 GMT)

i dont understand why do icc wasting so much money on develeoping cricket in USA. cricket is never going to take off in US. they think its boring game. It doesnt matter if they have subcontinent fans there. i am living in canada for 5 years. i dont see many of the subcontinent guys are showing interest on cricket. Infact there was not a single news about cricket in canadian medias during the last word cup, eventhough canada was playing in the world cup. Instead of that why cant they invest money on countries who have passion and talent on the game. countries like Afghanistan,Ireland, kenya(who have been impressive in senior level),PNG,nepal( who always qualify for the U19 world cup.) common ICC think about it.

Posted by John-Price on (September 1, 2012, 14:48 GMT)

A few words of advice for participating players - make sure you're paid in advance.

Posted by stephentaz on (September 1, 2012, 14:28 GMT)

"Americans only like sports they invented themselves". What about Ice Hockey? T20 is getting boring to watch now. T20 should be only for club level. Playing for your country should be always first.

Posted by glance_to_leg on (September 1, 2012, 13:42 GMT)

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century cricket was extremely strong in the US. Its long duration made it unsuitable for commercial exploitation. However, the shortened form of the game has considerable chance of success, especially given the growing US population from the sub continent. Oh, and for what it is worth, baseball was an English invention, mentioned first in the mid eighteenth century. Even Jane Austen refers to it alongside cricket in Northanger Abbey. Of course, the game evolved thereafter. There is no reason why cricket should not be a popular subsidiary sport, just as rugby has become in the US. And what is wrong with a bit of competition for players and stars. There are plenty of footballers from elsewhere in the world playing in the premierships in rugby and cricket, and plenty of British players have been lured to say Japan or France to play rugby in recent years. It all helps the globalisation of great games ...

Posted by   on (September 1, 2012, 13:23 GMT)

Forget about English cricket, what is it going to do to West Indian cricket?

Posted by   on (September 1, 2012, 13:19 GMT)

I don't see this as much threat to the English season. Cricket will NEVER take off in mainstream America, no matter how much marketing is thrown at it. Americans only like sports they invented themselves.

Posted by Uppercut07 on (September 1, 2012, 13:16 GMT)

EXCELLENT, i was afraid it's gonna clash with next SLPL season in September. Glad to know it's not!!

Posted by liaqathussain on (September 1, 2012, 13:07 GMT)

games been played on artificail pitches sounds dull, but lets see, if promoted in the right way i don't see why it won't be successfull, and surely usa can produce 10-20 home grown(white) players,

that will be vital for the success of the league, and english league needs to wake up and from next year start a new league, 10 years its been successfull but now its dieing out so need to move on

Posted by   on (September 1, 2012, 12:33 GMT)

Most countries have to accept that their season coincides with those in other countries. But the ICC needs to decide what the future of cricket is to be - a travelling T20 circus moving around the world with the seasons or something previous generations might recognise as cricket.

Posted by KunzMan on (September 1, 2012, 12:27 GMT)

T-20 was a great invention and IPL has been received well, although off-late there are signs of waning interest. But just like businesses, cricketing fraternity seems to be overdoing it now. Its not going to be a case of being "spoilt for choices". Overdoing "entertainment" might quickly reduce its value to that of a commodity.

Posted by steds00 on (September 1, 2012, 12:19 GMT)

Threatening the English season? Oh please. How is this any different to "Pro Cricket" or any other attempt to take cricket to the masses in America?

Posted by   on (September 1, 2012, 12:13 GMT)

I'm so bored of the IPL and T20 and all the nonsense that goes with it. It should never have been allowed to take over cricket as much as it has done.

Posted by Munkeymomo on (September 1, 2012, 12:03 GMT)

With no limitations on how many players from certain nationalities, this could be a great league to watch! Akin to the top football leagues, you just sign the best players! A league where KP, ABdV, Malinga, Pollard, Gayle, Kohli, Steyn, Ajmal, Gul, Bollinger, Vettori could all be in one side? Awesome.

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