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Last Updated: Friday, 2 July, 2004, 13:26 GMT 14:26 UK
Star spangled cricket takes shape
Pro Cricket, the USA's first professional league, is beginning its inaugural season with eight teams competing in two divisions.

BBC Sport's Paul Grunill spoke to the man behind the project, Kal Patel, about his hopes of popularising the game in a land where baseball is king.


Kal Patel
I believe in three years Pro Cricket will become an established entity
Kal Patel
Q. You have been quoted as saying there are 7.5 million cricket fans in the USA. Why has it taken until now for the country to have a professional cricket league?

A. I believe cricket has a home in America, our extensive research tells us that.

I think part of the problem is that America is a vast country. While we have 7.5 milion people, they are spread out over many hundreds of thousands of square miles.

It also requires someone who is fully committed, that has the financial resources available to them to do this. I believe that's why cricket has been lagging behind.

Q. Who else is involved in this project?

A. I have an owner who has stepped up to the plate who has bought licences to operate eight teams in eight metro areas, his name is Kamal Verma.

I have a media partner - unfortunately I can't disclose too muich information at this point because they are going to launch a national TV station of ethnic origin in the US within the next several weeks.

This media partner has committed 150 hours of air time towards Pro Cricket, and 50 additional hours per year towards cricket in general around the USA.

PRO CRICKET TEAMS
EAST DIVISION
New York Storm
Jersey Fire
DC Forward
Florida Thunder
WEST DIVISION
Chicago Tornadoes
San Francisco Freedom
LA Unity
Texas Arrowaheads

Q. What made you choose the 20 overs format?

A. We spent two to three years doing lots of research about demographics, the acceptability of a new sport in America, the time and money spent on entertainment.

That research also yielded that Americans won't spend more than three hours at a time on anything that is entertainment, whether it's a concert, a movie or even a professional sport that they have a diehard addiction to.

When we tried to apply that research to the game of cricket, what you refer to as Twenty20 or what we call 3G cricket fell into place quite well.

Q. Pro Cricket has not been sanctioned by the International Cricket Council. Why did you not choose to work with the game's established bodies?

A. We did, we did a full blown presentation to the ICC at Lord's about eight weeks ago.

They wished us well but were adamant that ICC only works with a nationally recognised board, in this case the USACA, and we have no problem with that.

They urged us to work with USACA and we went to meet them on 19 June, that was the first date they made available to us. The president, Gladstone Dainty, the treasurer, the secretary and four of the nine directors were there and we did our presentation for them.

Mr Dainty believes what we are doing is good but he needs to go to his board and get their support. We haven't heard back from them yet.

Q. How big a setback was it when the Board of Control in India advised its players not to take part in the competition?

A. The business plan doesn't call for current national team players to be participating in Pro Cricket, so whilst it was disheartening, it really wasn't a setback.

Ajay Jadeja
Indian Ajay Jadeja is one of the overseas stars involved
Q. You have promised international stars but there are no confirmed rosters on your website and some of the players mentioned at launch have denied involvement. Has recruiting players been a problem?

A. It has been challenging because of scepticism. This is a start-up and people have a lot of questions, but for the past two weeks the people we had reached out to and had given us tentative agreements are now signing on and giving us full commitment.

We now have approximately 40 professional players committed to us this summer from countries such as India, Australia and the West Indies, among others.

Q. How are advance ticket sales going and what size of crowds are you hoping for at the various matches?

A. It's difficult to say at this point, this has never been done before, this is groundbreaking. The games are not yet sell-outs by any means, but the buzz has been created. People are eager to see what this is all about.

Q. We are familiar with Twenty20 cricket in England, what innovations have you introduced to the way the game is played?

A. It is very like Twenty20, but there are a couple of rule changes.

We have a five ball over instead of six, we want to have a 100-ball innings. It's all about marketing in America. Trying to explain a six ball over to Americans, 'Why six?' they will say and we don't have an answer.

If they say 'Why five?' then it's easy maths.

Also, in baseball they have designated hitters and the pitchers aren't required to bat. We're going to do something similar and allow one person to be replaced by a designated hitter during his side's innings. Chances are it will be the main strike bowler who isn't required to bat.

Q. Other radical concepts like XFL came and went without establishing themselves, how confident are you that Pro Cricket will survive at least the three years for which you say you have funding?

A. XFL did not fail, the media partner lost patience and pulled the plug on it.

We have brought in a media partner, who has a stake in Pro Cricket, but they are not a majority partner, they are a minority partner.

This could fail like other enterprises have done, but we have to give it a try. I have financial backing for three years.

I believe in three years Pro Cricket will become an established entity and will go on for 10 years and more.




WATCH AND LISTEN
Interview: Pro Cricket's Kal Patel



SEE ALSO
ICC blow for new US league
17 Jun 04 |  Cricket
Indians ready for US adventure
10 Jun 04 |  Cricket
Pro cricket hits the USA
01 Jun 04 |  Cricket
USA joins World Cup bidders
08 May 04 |  Cricket
ICC gives USA boost
25 Mar 04 |  Cricket


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