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Take me out to the cricket game? Investors launch a professional league for the U.S.

Henry Epp Jul 13, 2023
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Indian cricketer Rohit Sharma. Cricket has a huge fan base in South Asia, and Major League Cricket hopes to take the sport pro in the United States. Randy Brooks/AFP via Getty Images

Take me out to the cricket game? Investors launch a professional league for the U.S.

Henry Epp Jul 13, 2023
Heard on:
Indian cricketer Rohit Sharma. Cricket has a huge fan base in South Asia, and Major League Cricket hopes to take the sport pro in the United States. Randy Brooks/AFP via Getty Images
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About 7,000 people are expected to pack into a former minor league baseball ballpark near Dallas on Thursday night.

​But the game they’ll see will feature hitters with fat bats swinging at bouncing balls — because the game will be cricket. It’s the first game of a new professional cricket league for the United States.

The bat-and-ball sport that’s kinda but not really like baseball is hugely popular in a lot of places that used to be part of the British empire.

But here in the U.S.? Not so much.

​The leaders of the startup Major League Cricket hope to change that. They’ve invested $100 million to set up a six-team league — with rosters that include international stars — that will compete over the next two weeks.

The league is banking on interest from South Asian communities in the U.S. But the road to turning a profit could be bumpy.

Cricket has grown a lot in the U.S. since Ravi Etwaroo started his cricket equipment business in the Bronx, New York, in 2006.

“We have local schools, high schools now taking part in cricket. We have college cricket,” Etwaroo said.

Much of that growth is an effect of South Asian immigration to the U.S. Cricket has a huge fan base in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Now, Major League Cricket hopes to take the sport pro here — and tap into those growing communities and their enthusiasm, said league spokesperson Tom Dunmore. 

“This probably wouldn’t have the same upside if we were doing this in the 1980s or even early ’90s,” Dunmore said.

There are now over 5 million Americans with roots in South Asia. Plus, there are expats from other cricket hotbeds — the U.K., Australia, South Africa and the Caribbean.

The next question is, “Would Americans take this on wholesale? And that’s probably going to take a lot longer,” said Stefan Szymanski, a professor of sport management at the University of Michigan.

Major League Cricket is keeping its ambitions relatively small for now, with the season just two weeks long. And even though all of its matches will be played in Texas and North Carolina this year, its teams are assigned homes — Los Angeles, Seattle, San Francisco, New York, Washington and Texas, all locations where the league hopes to build stadiums.

Even if it manages to expand, profitability could be further off, said Victor Matheson, a sports economist at the College of the Holy Cross.

“This is not something you measure success in months or years. It really is something you measure in decades,” Matheson said.

Even the NFL took that long to get a foothold, he said.

“The folks that think, you know, ‘Oh, if we can just get through year one or two, we’re set,’ are deceiving themselves,” Matheson added.

The league said its inaugural season will be broadcast in cricketing nations around the world, and if you want to watch it here, you have to subscribe to a channel called Willow TV.

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