This Saturday August 27th and Sunday August 28th, Miami in Florida will host two T20 Matches between India and the West Indies. The BCCI has declared it their goal to make this an annual event, which bodes well for expansion of the sport to new countries.
The first ever cricket international was actually played in North America! In 1844, th "British Empire’s Canadian Province" visited New York to face off against the USA side.Canada racked up 82 all out in 32 overs, dismissed the US for 64, built on their lead and proceeded to win the game by 23 runs. How times change; 82 by an entire side was enough to win in 1844; today Chris Gayle could smash 82 off 5 overs all by himself!
So why is it a big deal to be taking T20s to Florida? For starters, cricket could use the globalization. There are 10 Full Member Nations, another 8 Associate Members with T20I Status. None of them are from North America or South America, and only England, Scotland and Ireland hail from Europe. Several of the biggest, more developed sporting nations in the world have close to zero involvement in cricket today; so taking the game to America is a step in the right direction for the future of the game.
However, it might may be too little too late.
Here are 5 reasons the BCCI will have a tough time cracking the American market.
1. It’s an Over-Saturated Sports Market: In order of size, the United States already has 5 major sports leagues:
a. NFL (American Football)
b. MLB (Baseball)
c. NBA (Basketball)
d. NHL (Ice Hockey)
e. MLS (Soccer)
Soccer is the newest entrant, and is growing aggressively behind the might of the European Soccer Leagues. Is there really room in that packed lineup for a 6th major sport like cricket?
2. The weather can be prohibitive: All 5 of the big sports can be played indoors, with limited impact on the game itself. In fact, American Football and Soccer can both be played even in rain or snow. With the east coast in winter for 6 months of the year, can cricket adapt? Playing indoors would change the pitch, impacting swing, bounce, pace of the outfield, and more.
3. Size of the diaspora: Many would argue that the large South Asian population of the US and Canada is enough to give cricket a head-start in that part of the world. There are 3.4 Million South Asians in the US (as of the last census), which is up 81% from the previous one. While in absolute terms that is no small number, it’s still less than 0.2% of South Asia itself. The BCCI might be too used to having hordes of fans around at all times.
4. The USACA has been suspended: The USA Cricket Association was suspended by the ICC in June 2015 for “governance and financial problems”. This also means a freeze on their funding, which has prevented the US from sending their own cricket team to any tournaments. Is there an example of any sport that has mass following in a country which doesn’t even play it?
5. Time Zones: This weekend’s matches begin at 10am Eastern, or 7.30pm IST – the perfect prime time spot for the Indian TV viewing audience. Unfortunately, it’s not ideal for hordes of Americans to wake up hungover early on a Saturday morning and make the trek to a cricket stadium – or skip work if future games are on weekdays. It will always be a balance between TV and live audiences, and given the sheer numbers, I worry TV will always win.
The BCCI and ICC clearly have an uphill battle on their hands, but we are excited to see them trying to spread cricket to North America!
What do you think? Let us know in the comments.