Whenever the topic of cricket arises in the United States, the same old questions are asked.
From the unlikely scenario where American kids change their football in the NFL to cricket bits, to the amazing views on the financial viability of the game in North America, skeptical eyebrows are usually raised.
Sure, there have been enough false dawns over the years to stifle even the most ardent cricketers in the States – yes, they exist – but with the advent of the Premier Cricket League (MLC) in 2023, that time may well be different.
In fact so different that MLC is going to get an additional investment of $ 120 million, taken together by a wide range of investors. In addition, Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR), one of the most successful and valuable franchises of the Indian Premier League (IPL), is also absorbing its money and reputation into the Twenty20 competition by taking control of the team in Los Angeles.
Many ask the question: why?
Well, KKR CEO Wreaths Mysore is confident that now is the time to invest in North American cricket. The businessman, who has spent most of his professional career in the United States, has seen similar investments in the Caribbean Premier League (CPL) bring dividends.
Millions around the world – especially in India – have tuned in to see star performers like Andre Russell perform at Trinidad Knight Riders CPL. According to Mysore, this is a sure sign that the raid on the already heavily saturated US sports market is worth it, just in terms of India.
The sudden sports transformation won’t happen overnight (“10 to 15 years,” according to Mysore), but cricket in the U.S. now has a plan, and the strength of IPL KKR wants to join.
“My philosophy of how to create a franchise is based on two pillars,” says Mysore. “One of them is your brand, and the other is your fan base. And so if you have two months to compete, how do you maintain your brand all year round?
“My vision when I took over KKR was that we could acquire assets around the world that are very similar and we are gaining experience in creating a franchise, and making it successful and creating a model there. But the next problem was how can we take this model and replicate it around the world under the main brand Knight Riders? This is what we have done in the CPL, and we will do in the United States.
“On my wish list is to have a common group of sponsors who will be involved with us wherever we play Knight Riders, so the MLC fits into the whole scheme of things.”
Knight Riders is far from the first team to apply this policy. He has really served Manchester City very well, a Premier League team that has partner teams around the world.
Several IPL franchises have been able to follow KKR’s example, and it remains unclear whether others will take a risk with MLC, which has a number of U.S. sports investors to help with the transition.
“There is a common denominator in how we built our model, our colors and our logo, as well as the brand of cricket we play,” Mysore says. “Fans in India can communicate with our other teams.”
On paper the signs of MLC are encouraging. Specific cricket stadiums are planned. Last ad for a friend in Orange County, California, and other potential locations on the West Coast, including Seattle and San Francisco Bay.
The $ 120 million investment in MLC, which is set to begin with six franchises, will focus on building major stadiums and cricket training centers to help develop a new generation of U.S.-born players.
The project may also appear at the right time, after years of mistakes and false dawns: The United States has been named co-host of the Caribbean 2020 World Cup. Meanwhile, cricket may return to the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles. Angeles. Success is certainly not guaranteed, and neither is the return on some huge investments across the field, except. But Mysore is confident that the MLC will be sustainable.
“It’s an NFL model where you own part of the league,” he says. “So there are a lot of other incomes that will come in. I make more money on CPL in Trinidad on licensing and merchandise than most IPL teams in India. ”
Huge parts of Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Englishmen, Australians and South Africans in the US do not need to get acquainted with the big old game. But the multimillion-dollar question is whether children from the middle of America know that all this is happening, while the NFL and NBA jugglers keep going.
“I think the short answer is no,” says Michael Naraine, who teaches sports management at Brock University in Ontario. “I mean, the simple answer is: cricket will stay in city centers for a while. And if you’re talking to MLC and you’re talking to other stakeholders in the U.S., the idea is that we’re going to distribute these facilities in big urban centers where there are a lot of immigrants – Philadelphia, New York, Miami, San Francisco – a grand scheme of things makes sense.
“I think there’s a possibility, but we can’t be too joking or naive about the situation that some kid in Missouri will pick it up magically. This is a long-term game, perhaps the culmination [with a US presence] at the 2032 Olympics. When kids see that the U.S. team has hit NBC, they might start thinking about becoming a cricketer. «
Narain points to how hockey has taken root in places where the sport has not traditionally been popular. Five-time NHL star Ostan Matthews is a good example: he grew up in Phoenix, but was picked up by his local team, the Coyotes, when he grew up, and is now one of the best young players in the league.
“Phoenix only started its franchise in 1996, so 20 years later they’re releasing their own MVP,” Naraine says. “That’s how long it will take for that to happen.”
The victory of the US team Twenty20 at the end of last year over Ireland was seen as a turning point for this game – a triumph over a full member of the ICC. It was this moment that convinced the English bowler who won the World Cup, Liam Plunkett, to cross the Atlantic and take on the role of player / coach in Philadelphia. The 37-year-old guy, whose wife hails from the area, is scheduled to play for the Philadelphia franchise. Importantly, cricket in the US will also use a very experienced player to help work with potential stars of tomorrow.
“I feel like it’s a startup company and I want to help create cricket here,” says Plunkett, one of 30 professional players signed to MLC. “I was in Houston a few weeks ago with the Premier League guys, and there’s a lot of talent. With everything on the horizon, it definitely feels like a professional setup. ”
Mysore agrees that the potential is there. “The United States is the number one media market in the world. And you are the second most popular sport in the world, ”he says. “There are enough people in the diaspora who want to consume cricket content, that’s for sure. However, I have always argued that in order for us to be able to scale a product in the US, you need to interest the average American sports enthusiast in T20 cricket. No doubt it will be hard to do, but there are ways to do it. ”