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T20 World Cup 2024: ICC's 'Big American Dream' had too many loose ends and leant too heavily on Indian market

There are only few things that money can't buy and the performances by Saurabh Netravalkar and Monank Patel were indeed priceless.
Last Updated : 16 June 2024, 16:25 IST

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New Delhi: Under-prepared drop-in tracks, poor ground conditions, over dependence on Indian TV audience, in addition to oversights — like not factoring in weather and steep ticket prices — were only some of the problems that didn't make America the most viable commercial destination for a global event like T20 World Cup, in the maiden attempt.

However the only takeaway is United States' national team's stupendous show to beat Pakistan and give India a run for their money before entering the Super Eights, making its debut on the world stage.

There are only few things that money can't buy and the performances by Saurabh Netravalkar and Monank Patel were indeed priceless — something that would have given the pin-striped suits of ICC, sitting in Dubai, a chance to heave a sigh of relief; this despite a lot of things that didn't go quite right during the course of the two-and-a-half weeks.

For any team sport to do well and become popular enough to attract ticket- and merch-buying fans in a particular geographical region, it is imperative that there is some sense of nationalism associated with it and the H1B visa holders and 'Green Card' Indians have given them that opportunity.

Cricket in America has been ICC's pet project for a long time and having T20 included in the 2028 Olympics programme for the Los Angeles edition is a big leap in that direction.

However the global body would be the first to admit that the teething problems associated with the logistics and organisational part did paint a sorry picture.

Let us take the example of the Nassau County Cricket ground in the Long Island, which is more than an hour's drive from the CBD (Central Business District) of the New York City.

It was a makeshift facility and by the time this article reaches the readers, the 37,000 seater portable stands would have been dismantled and no one knows what kind of cricket matches would be played at that ground henceforth. The drop-in pitch will be plucked out for sure.

The mouth-watering proposition of India vs USA in New York state (not City) however needed a bit more than just hype and not testing the tracks was a juvenile mistake.

The pitch was pilloried for its uneven bounce during India's opening match against Ireland when balls were flying from length after hitting the cracks.

The groundsmen then rolled the track to cover the cracks and so much that the pitch became slow and teams found it difficult to chase down any target which was in the range of 115-120.

The low scores made the matches enticing but also took away the fun element from the whole process of coming to watch a T20 match to see batsmen hit more sixes.

A total of 56 maximums were hit in 8 games and at an average of seven per game, which isn't the best advertisement for promotion of the game in an unchartered territory where the viewership is dependent on the Indian diaspora. In one IPL match alone this season, 42 sixes were hit, which is on the other end of the spectrum.

As far as the native Americans, who have grown up on liberal dose of New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox are concerned, you would need more action than scores like 95, 113, 119 to bring the footfalls at the turnstiles.

"Obviously, if you have to showcase it to the world and sell it, I don't think it's a great selling product, but for cricket, it's tight competition. It brings the other teams and the higher teams very close to each other," said South African batter Heinrich Klaasen after a match.

"I think all the batters are keen to get out of this place, to be fair. The bowlers would love to stay here," he said.

Coming back to the timing, if one wants regular series, matches need to be held in the evening unless it's just catering to the broadcasters' demand of 8 pm IST timing which means that on weekdays, you will not have big crowds in future.

The broadcasters never show but there were enough empty seats during the match against Ireland which was a mid-week fixture.

The minimum price of tickets for an India vs Pakistan game was $300 and the highest for corporate box was $10,000.

Sample this: The lowest ticket price for a New York Yankees baseball game is USD 46 while in case of basketball, La Lakers and Chicago Bulls have lowest priced tickets at much less than $54 and $34 respectively. The courtside marquee tickets for Lakers or Bulls game is around $3000.

The question arises that apart from the Asian community will ICC be able to attract the native Americans? The answer currently is an emphatic 'No'.

Florida's Fort Lauderhill has been cricket world's 'go to' destination for international games and Indian teams have been playing T20Is for some time now.

Being a coastal area, Florida is always affected by inclement weather and flash floods but yet ICC couldn't arrange for full ground cover, which wouldn't have led to three washouts in three days.

"This question should be asked to the ICC people. I won't be able to answer that. I don't know the reason why it was not covered and why didn't have enough covers to cover the whole ground. If they had covered it, definitely that would have helped," India's batting coach Vikram Rathour said after his team's match against Canada got washed out.

So unless ICC is keen on tying loose ends, cricket in America would be a sport played by South Asians, watched by South Asians and that certainly can't be called true globalisation of the game by any stretch of the imagination.

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Published 16 June 2024, 16:25 IST

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