Major League Cricket is the most recent effort to introduce professional cricket to the United States. On July 13, the first game was played between the Texas Super Kings and the Los Angeles Knight Riders, two of six new franchises whose rosters feature both international and domestic athletes. Washington Freedom, M.I. New York, Seattle Orcas, and San Francisco Unicorns are the other teams. This summer’s opening tournament of the league spans eighteen days and features nineteen games contested in two stadiums, one of which is located in Morrisville, North Carolina. Michael Klinski, another member of the throng in Texas, had traveled thirteen hours with his wife and four children from South Dakota. During the summers of his childhood, forty-one-year-old Klinski used to visit relatives in England, where he fell in love with cricket. He continues to play in a local division in Sioux Falls. “The history, the excitement, and how passionate people are about it,” he explained, describing why he enjoys the sport. “There is greater danger in cricket. When you lose, you lose.”
Being a cricket fan in the United States has meant being deprived of top-tier domestic competition, and hunger can lead to irrational behavior, such as driving from South Dakota to witness a game between two teams conjured out of thin air and a checkbook. The organizers of Major League Cricket relied on the fervor of American cricket’s tiny but devoted fan base. They required the presence of their Negis and Klinskis. Eventually, on a sweltering Texas night during a heat wave, they did.
Chuck Ramkissoon, a grandiloquent Trinidadian-American entrepreneur, aspires to introduce cricket to America in “Netherland” by Joseph O’Neill, another excellent cricket novel. Chuck evokes the sport’s deep origins in the United States by describing it as “the first modern team sport in America”—a game played by hundreds of clubs in front of thousands of spectators in the nineteenth century. (In an uncharacteristic omission, Chuck neglects to mention that Abraham Lincoln was one of these fans; he reportedly witnessed Chicago play Milwaukee in 1849.) Chuck sends an email to potential investors in his scheme.
It is incorrect to view cricket in America as an immigrant sport, as the majority of people do. It is an authentic American pastime. Those who attempted to “introduce” cricket to the American public failed to comprehend this. Cricket is already a part of American culture. With appropriate advertising, marketing, and government support, the game’s popularity could be easily revived. American children could once again participate in the nation’s earliest team sport.
Chuck would have admired M.L.C.’s ambition. Twenty-one years ago, Sameer Mehta and Vijay Srinivasan launched Willow TV, a cricket-streaming service; and M.L.C. is backed by an initial investment of one hundred and twenty million dollars from tech executives such as Satya Nadella, the C.E.O. of Microsoft, and Texas businessmen including Ross Perot, Jr., the son of a former President. (“Don’t ask me a difficult question,” Perot told me in the stands at one point. He meant a query regarding the cricket rules, of which he was a novice.) M.L.C. has also partnered with two teams in Australia and four in the Indian Premier League, the world’s most successful and lucrative cricket competition in the sport’s largest market, which is currently estimated to be worth more than $10 billion. M.L.C. has a team named M.I. New York, which makes no sense until you realize that its counterpart in India is the Mumbai Indians.
T20, the most popular short form of cricket in America
The American League plays T20, the most popular short form of cricket, in which each team has up to one hundred and twenty deliveries to score as many runs as possible, with an emphasis on aggressive batting and shrewd bowling. Test cricket, played between international teams wearing white uniforms over two innings and five days, is regarded by many cricket fans as the highest form of the game the classic movie to Twenty20’s YouTube video, and English cricket fans are presently enthralled by the test series with Australia. However, the long form of the game is declining in certain regions of the globe.
According to the M.L.C. administrator
Anurag Jain, Perot’s partner in his venture-capital firm and co-investor in M.L.C., was confident that there was already enough of a market to support the league, especially due to the large number of South Asian and other immigrants from cricket-playing nations in the United States. According to the M.L.C. administrators, the U.S. is the third- or fourth-largest television market for cricket in the world. In the future, the league aims to have a regular mainstream TV partner. This year, Willow TV is covering the majority of games, while CBS Sports Network is covering at least three. He explained, “This season is all about giving people a taste.” “Get the people here, get the right talent, get the stadium, and acclimate the fans to all of these things.”