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US plans IPL-style cricket league

By Boria Majumdar

A cricket match in America
There are an estimated 200,000 cricketers in America

There are plans to launch a Twenty20 cricket league in the US similar to the successful Indian Premier League, a top US cricket official says.

The chief of the USA Cricket Association, Don Lockerbie, said that potential commercial partners are being sought for the tournament.

The matches next year are planned for three venues, including a new cricket stadium that has been built in Florida.

There are some 15 million cricket fans in the US, Mr Lockerbie said.

By organising America's first professional cricket tournament, Mr Lockerbie said he was trying to make America "one of the top 15 cricket playing nations by 2015".

"[The planned tournament] is a very serious initiative and the chances [of it succeeding] are better than a 50-over tournament," he said.

Mr Lockerbie said proposals have already been sought from potential commercial partners and efforts were on to find out how much the tournament was worth.

Diaspora

With the USA being the second biggest market in the world for cricket television broadcast rights and Internet revenues, organisers expect many companies to set up teams and sponsor the tournament.

If everything goes according to plan, a number of private city or state based teams containing players from around the world will be playing in the tournament which will be recognised by the International Cricket Council.

Many of the matches will be held at a new cricket stadium in Florida, which can accommodate more than 15,000 fans.

Don Lockerbie
The tournament is a very serious initiative
Don Lockerbie, chief of USA Cricket Association

What is still unclear is how the ICC will find a window in the crowded cricket calendar to accommodate the American tournament.

Also, memories of the flop inter-island Twenty20 competition in West Indies sponsored by the controversial Texan billionaire Sir Allen Stanford are still fresh in the minds of cricket fans around the world.

The USA Cricket Association is also trying to get five Test cricket playing countries to send their teams to the US to play some ICC-recognised warm up matches in the run up the World Twenty20 cricket tournament in the West Indies.

"If these warm up games happen, it will be history in the making," Mr Lockberie says.

The USA Cricket Association believes there are an estimated 15 million cricket fans in the USA, mostly from the South Asian diaspora.

There are also an estimated 200,000 cricketers in America, according to Venu Palaparthi, co-founder of Dreamcricket.com, US's largest cricket portal which also runs its own cricket academy.

'Common heritage'

Mr Palaparthi says cricket was being played in more than 40 universities over the last decade.

The cricket stadium in Florida
A brand new cricket stadium in expected to host a number of matches

Cricket is played at school level in nine states. New York's public school cricket program has 23 participating schools.

The area along the East Coast extending from Boston to Washington DC appears to have the most number of cricketers. Outside this area, the largest concentrations of cricketers are in Florida, Texas, Illinois, Michigan and California.

With median incomes of expatriate Indians - who form the bulk of the South Asian diaspora - one of the highest in the country, cricket organisers feel that cricket has good commercial prospects.

International cricket can trace its earliest successes to the US.

The first recorded first class cricket match in the world was played between the US and Canada at Bloomingdale Park in New York in 1844 with over 10,000 spectators in attendance.

Cricket remained popular till the middle of the 1880s - an American team even defeated the West Indies in an international match in British Guyana in 1880.

One reason, according to scholars, why cricket did not take off in America was that the game had no "common heritage" to draw on.

A cricket match in America
The game is powered by the South Asian diaspora

"Unfortunately, in the United States cricket has no common heritage to draw on because the individual expatriate histories of the game do not provide common ground," writes P David Sentence in his book, Cricket in America, 1710-2000.

"When an American talks of baseball he knows what Babe Ruth did on a certain day in the year. Every Englishman, Indian, Pakistani, or West Indian carries his own version of cricket history in his head. When these histories are supplemented by American cricket achievements on the field of play then cricket will have arrived in the United States."

Boria Majumdar is a cricket historian from Oxford University and writer of a number of books on the game.



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