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Why is the T20 Cricket World Cup in the USA?

May 30, 2024

American football, basketball and baseball are the most popular sports in the USA. So how has the country ended up hosting a cricket World Cup? And what does it mean for the sport in the USA?

USA cricket captain Monank Patel
Monank Patel, who was born in India, will captain the USA at its home T20 Cricket World CupImage: Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

Why is the United States hosting a cricket World Cup?

Back in 2021, the US was named as joint-hosts of this edition of cricket's Twenty20 (T20) World Cup, the shortest format of the international game. A total of 16 out of 55 matches at the 20-team tournament will be hosted in the US, split across venues in Florida, New York and Texas. The home team face Canada in the tournament opener on June 2. The rest of the matches, including the June 29 final, will be played at grounds in the West Indies, a more storied cricket nation.

The advent of T20 cricket has opened up new commercial horizons for the sport, with the US seen as the latest frontier to conquer. Paraag Marathe, chair of USA Cricket, said the International Cricket Council, the sport's global governing body, "identified the USA as a strategic market for growth that will benefit cricket around the world" and allow progress in the domestic game.

That has already seen dramatic growth in recent times, thanks to Major League Cricket (MLC), a T20 franchise based on the wildly successful Indian Premier League (IPL). Investors in MLC include Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and Adobe executive Shantanu Narayan, who both have Indian heritage, and the league has attracted big name international players like Jason Roy (England), Sunil Narine (West Indies), Trent Boult (New Zealand) and Kagiso Rabada (South Africa). The new MLC season hopes to capitalize on any positive effect of the World Cup, starting its 2024 season less than a week after the final.

Has the US got any history in cricket?

Surprisingly to many, the US can claim to have been involved in the first ever international match, against neighbors Canada in 1844. This was long before the clash between England and Australia, often cited as the first Test match (the most prestigious format of the international game) in 1882. As it was in the rest of the world, cricket was exported to America by British colonialists but, somewhere around the time the American Civil War of 1861-1865, baseball became the USA's bat and ball game of choice.

The time between that and the last couple of years has been a story of missed opportunities, with poor governance and a lack of interest seeing participation and recognition dwindle. Most recently, though, the US has enjoyed some good results, defeating Bangladesh, an established T20 nation, 2-1 in a recent pre-tournament warmup series. That said, it will be among the outsiders at the tournament itself.

Are there fans of cricket in the US?

Increasingly, yes. The country has the biggest immigrant population in the world, with India the second biggest contributor to that (after Mexico), while many other people have British or Caribbean roots.

Nevertheless, a recent survey by pollsters YouGov found that only 10% of Americans were aware of the MLC, and even less were aware of the upcoming World Cup (6%). However, they also found that one in five showed interest in the tournament, with interest stronger among the youngest demographic (18-34). That only 62% of those interested in cricket will support the US is perhaps further proof of the diaspora effect, which is also reflected in the US squad. Captain Monank Patel is one of a number of players born in India, Pakistan or in other countries outside the US.

Who are the favorites for the tournament?

The prevalence of fans born in, or with links to, India may well aid their already-strong case. India won the inaugural T20 World Cup in 2007 but haven't won it since, despite huge reserves of talent which have been deepened by the IPL. Veteran batting pair Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli will be key, as ever, while Suryakumar Yadav tops the ICC batting rankings and Jasprit Bumrah is one of the greatest T20 bowlers of all time.

Rohit Sharma hits a cricket ball while playing for India
Rohit Sharma has played for India in every T20 World Cup tournament to dateImage: Nigel French/empics/picture alliance

Australia and reigning champions England sit just behind India on the list, while co-hosts the West Indies have won the competition twice (in 2012 and 2016) and have a number of explosive talents.

Who could cause an upset?

Joining the US as debutants, Canada and Uganda have only the slimmest chance of making it through their groups, which include India and Pakistan, and New Zealand and the West Indies, respectively. But emerging nations like these will all have a chance of a World Cup victory, with the number of teams up from 16 to 20 this year.

The short form of the game allows for more shocks and has previously given a platform for teams like Afghanistan, who memorably beat the West Indies in 2016. With brilliant spinner Rashid Khan and experienced and destructive all-rounder Mohammad Nabi in the side, they have a chance to escape their group at least.

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Edited by: Jonathan Crane