T20 World Cup: Lack Of Buzz And Following In Cricket Leads To Lukewarm Build-Up In USA; Empty Stands Seen In IND vs BAN Warm-Up Clash

T20 World Cup: Lack Of Buzz And Following In Cricket Leads To Lukewarm Build-Up In USA; Empty Stands Seen In IND vs BAN Warm-Up Clash

The India vs Bangladesh warm-up match failed to attract fans as empty stands were seen at the Nassau County Cricket stadium in New York on June 1.

IANSUpdated: Saturday, June 01, 2024, 09:06 PM IST
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The year 1994 played a crucial role in shaping the USA’s connection with football (called soccer in America) when it hosted the FIFA World Cup. The event served as a major catalyst for the sport’s penetration into American culture. Now, after three decades, the USA is once again the chosen venue for the Men’s T20 World Cup, making it the first time a major cricket event is being held in the country.

The co-hosts will kick-start the tournament by facing Canada at the Grand Prairie Stadium, with the USA set to host 16 matches of the competition. The stakeholders have long wished for cricket to gain popularity in the US, where sports like basketball, baseball, track and field events, football, and swimming dominate. But many see the Men’s T20 World Cup helping cricket break into the lucrative US market.

Last year, the Major League Cricket (MLC) was launched, which is gearing up for a second season in July. Then there’s cricket’s inclusion into the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics, which means the signs are there for the sport to crack the American market.

“When the USA was announced as a co-host of the T20 World Cup (in 2021), I was very excited and felt, that finally, we could get to host a World Cup, because there have been slight developments in USA Cricket through Major and Minor Leagues, plus U11, U13, U15 category tournaments are happening all over the country,” Prasanna Balakrishnan, an ardent cricket fan who works as a software developer in Dallas, told IANS on Saturday.

“There have been so many games and I have even umpired in some of them. To see that excitement levels for the game has been amazing,” he said.

As the competition approaches, its ads are visible in New York’s famed Times Square arena while the Rockefeller Centre Building in New York has been lit up by tournament graffiti. There’s been an NBA Finals collaboration with Rohit Sharma and Bangladesh captain Najmul Hossain Shanto and an appearance of tournament ambassador Yuvraj Singh on the ‘Good Morning America’ show.

Outside of it, there’s little buzz in the country for the tournament. The USA-Canada opening game has not completely sold out and there are still tickets available for the highly expected India-Pakistan game on June 9 in New York, particularly for the Diamond Club, Corner Clubs, and Premium Club Lounge (North) sections.

“I don’t think there is enough buzz for the World Cup here as compared to India, because it hasn’t been marketed as much. I feel they could have done a lot more in terms of build-up. But I am hoping that as the tournament progresses, it will gain more interest. When you travel through areas or via airports, there’s not much buzz or hoardings.” said Prasanna Balakrishnan.

“When you go through an airport in a country hosting a major event like a World Cup, you get to see hoardings or other signs there for it. But I have seen from people travelling for the tournament through their X (formerly Twitter) posts that there hasn’t been much on this front,” he said. “Tournament promotions in the USA have been here and there. It has been decent, but not as much because other than the Asian population over here and in other places, I am not sure if it has reached much.”

“Time will tell about it as there are a few good games in Dallas, New York, and Florida, including matches of USA, Canada, and Nepal as well, and how they are received,” adds Prasanna, who will be present in the stadium to see all of India’s league matches in New York and Florida.

What has also been astonishing is a release from USA Cricket earlier this week saying fans can now secure tickets for the co-hosts’ three home matches (barring the one against India) at a remarkable 25% discount. The move hints at a lack of buzz for the tournament leading to empty seats in stadiums for the matches.

“When the first batch of ticket sales opened, they didn’t allow us to choose seats. Like, they allowed us to choose certain categories like standard, premium, VIP, etc. Only after that, they opened us few seats. We thought they were sold out but were not so.”

“The ticketing was a bit of a mismatch as you don’t want to fool the public by saying tickets are sold out. But when tickets don’t actually get sold out, then you open them later at a lower price, which doesn’t provide a good image,” opined Prasanna.

With the aim of expanding cricket’s presence in the USA, the tournament needs to captivate the interest of the non-cricket following local population. Nevertheless, the underwhelming buzz surrounding the T20 World Cup in the USA is certainly not contributing to its success.

“There are people curious about cricket in the USA like some local people came to see Major League Cricket (MLC) games in Dallas last year and were interested in knowing and learning about the game. In one of the stands, I was seated at for MLC games last year, people were willingly asking about if this is a wide or a no-ball and asking formats, etc.”

“There is enough information for some of them about the game, but there hasn’t been enough promotion to get the cities up on their feet. Like, some places have banners saying ‘T20 World Cup is coming, and get your tickets on the official website’. But me being an Indian team fan, I am 100% excited and let’s go India,” concluded Prasanna.

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