Summer is fast approaching, and fans of a popular sport involving balls and bats on a large field are getting ready for the action. But it’s not just baseball season this year. This July, Major League Cricket is set to debut in the U.S., and Texas has one of the first six teams.
Cricket is the second-most watched sport in the world, according to a press release from Major League Cricket. The sport has no shortage of fans in places like Europe, South Asia and Australia. So, why hasn’t it ever taken off in the U.S.? Is this the right moment to launch a professional cricket league in the States?
To discuss further, the Standard was joined by Tom Dunmore, vice president of marketing for Major League Cricket.
This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.
Texas Standard: Tell us about the team that’s going to be based out of Grand Prairie. On Monday, they announced a team name, a coach and some players. What can you tell us?
Tom Dunmore: That’s right. They are the Texas Super Kings. That’s in partnership with the Chennai Super Kings, who are one of the top teams in the whole world, an Indian Premier League franchise. They’re bringing all their experience and making sure it’s world-class cricket that we’re playing here in Texas.
The exciting thing for the fans in Texas is not only do you have a team, but most of the games in the inaugural season of Major League Cricket will be played in Texas, near Dallas. The Grand Prairie Stadium is our first premier cricket-specific venue. So, there’ll be an opportunity to watch all of this happen live in Texas this summer starting on July 13th.
Cricket is not an unknown game here in the U.S. It’s been played for decades, but has Major League Cricket ever been tried before in the U.S.?
No, certainly not at this level. These are the best players in the world coming here: the top coaches, the top players. You know, it’s as if the best players in the world of soccer came to America in the summer to take part in a massive competition. Not only that – we’ll actually have the World Cup of cricket coming the following year in 2024, most likely with games at the stadium in Grand Prairie.
It’s really an unbelievable launch for the league. We’re taking a bit of a moonshot at this. It’s an ambitious venture, but we’ve got massive backing, and we know there are millions of cricket fans across America, including hundreds of thousands in Texas, which speaks to the diversity of Texas and the number of fans that there are, particularly in Dallas and Houston. We think this is the right time for the league to launch and take advantage of that audience for it.
Why do you think that cricket has failed to gain momentum in the past?
You know, it’s a long story. Cricket was once as popular as baseball. In fact, in the 19th century, it was played at a very high level here. In the Civil War, baseball kind of won the battles of the patent ball sports. At the time, it was a little easier to set up and play, particularly when troops were moving around and playing in different types of fields. Cricket takes a little bit more curation of the field. So, you know, baseball won out for 150 years or so.
We’re not trying to battle baseball. But we do think there’s a lot of fun with this new version of cricket that we’re playing called T20, which is really fast. It only takes about 2 1/2 hours for a match, similar to baseball. There are a lot of what you would call home runs in and big hits in T20 cricket. It’s a much faster, really athletic version of the game that’s taken off in popularity around the world.
We think it’s a great time to bring that to an American audience, particularly now that there are so many more cricket fans living in America because of the immigration over the last 20-25 years. It’s brought so many fans of the sport here. So, all those stars have aligned to launch this league now.
What about the fact that a lot of Americans are a little unclear on the rules?
The rules take a bit of explaining, but there are definitely ways to do it. You know, I’ve seen some baseball fans do a great job of translating the terminology. My theory actually is the U.S. is a great place to launch a cricket league because Americans love bat and ball sports. A lot of the fundamentals are similar. It’s about hitting, scoring runs, catching outs – much that is very similar.
Even if the wording is different, I think it would actually be harder to do this in Brazil or Argentina, where they love soccer but don’t love a bat and ball sport. So, I think we can translate it. I think we can win fans over. It might take a bit of time, but we’ve got the core fan base here already that loves the sport. We can introduce it gradually to the U.S. fans who aren’t familiar with it.
I think once you see it in person and you see the adrenaline and the excitement and the fireworks and the big hitting, it feels really American as a sport. It’s got a lot of that dynamism to it. I think fans are going to love it once they get out to see a match.