Cricket’s future in US looks promising to Major League Cricket executive with Minor League Cricket taking off
This summer has been special for Americans in more ways than one. While most were relieved with life limping back to somewhat normal after Covid, there was something more brewing in the sports field that came as a surprise for many.
The Minor Cricket League that was launched in the US this summer had 27 teams playing in 21 cities across the nation. The crescendo has been building up as the finals will be held on Oct 2-3 in North Carolina.
The winning team gets to take home a prize of $125,000 out of a total of $250,000 – the largest amount in the history of cricket in the US.
If this sounds surreal for cricket in the USA, there is more. Major Cricket League—an upcoming Twenty20 cricket league in the US plans to begin playing by 2023 with six teams in major US cities
The American Bazaar caught up with Tom Dunmore who leads Major League Cricket’s brand, communications and marketing platforms.
Read: Will minor league cricket revamp desis’ favorite game in America? (July 13, 2021)
Dunmore joined MLC as Vice-President of Marketing in June this year. He is also an editor and author of multiple publications including “Soccer for Dummies” and a “Historical Dictionary of Soccer.” He tells us what the future of cricket in the US looks like.
AB: Let’s talk about cricket in the US. Historically it’s not a game that is played, enjoyed or taught in schools or teen clubs. Do you think that cricket has potential to get some mainstream attention?
TD: Cricket is absolutely on a fast track in the United States, with the goal of joining mainstream sports by the end of this decade. There are already many millions of cricket fans in the USA, with growing TV ratings for international cricket.
There is a huge opportunity to feed this audience, and build a new one, as we build cricket facilities, academies, and launch world class T20 cricket domestically with Major League Cricket for fans to experience live.
AB: Tell us about minor and major cricket leagues. What are your plans, what’s in store?
TD: Minor League Cricket has launched nationwide as the most extensive cricket competition in the United States, with 27 teams playing in 21 cities and over 200 matches this inaugural season.
This provides consistent, high-quality cricket for fans to enjoy and for young players to gain experience and build the pathway to the United States National Team.
Major League Cricket will launch in 2022-23 with world-class T20 play, similar to some of the other franchise tournaments around the world. It’ll be the highest-level domestic competition ever played in the USA.
New teams will launch and play in cricket-specific stadia that we are developing now, including the announced Grand Prairie facility near Dallas, Texas.
This league will capture the imagination of sports fans in America, introducing the game to new audiences, while cricket lovers domestically and internationally will embrace the stars of cricket playing in the world’s greatest sports market.
AB: Currently the minor league series is on. What has the response been like?
TD: We have seen an incredibly positive response to the Minor League launch. The amazing effort put in by local owners to field their teams and connect to their communities has created new opportunities for the game in so many places around the country.
The quality of play, the development of young players, and the excitement brought to the league by multiple international stars (such as Sami Aslam, Shehan Jayasuriya, Cory Anderson and Unmukt Chand) has blown us away.
It has been an incredible season building up to a thrilling finals weekend that will take place at scenic Church Street Park in Morrisville, North Carolina on Oct. 2-3.
AB: Why is there a new interest in cricket in America. Is it the growing South Asian population or the successful business model of cricket leagues that led to the plans?
TD: It’s a combination of these factors – certainly the vast increase in fans of cricket from South Asian communities provides a strong base for the game.
The growth in international cricket and the model of cricket T20 provides is of course a good fit for the United States to join the world’s stage in this form of the game, and provide a viable commercial platform for growth.
AB: Tell us about the future of cricket in America according to your plans for the leagues.
TD: Growth will come in multiple key areas, I’ll quickly summarize:
- Major League – launch of a world class annual T20 tournament
- Minor League – nationwide pathway tournament that will allow domestic American players to develop, feed the national team, and connect teams to community fan bases in unprecedented ways.
- Academies – development of academy and youth programs that will help bring through the next generation of American cricketers.
- Facilities – wide and substantial increase in quality dedicated cricket facilities (such as natural turf wickets and nets), for everything from community play to academies, Minor League venues, and first-class Major League stadiums that can accommodate large crowds.
AB: Have there been any interesting anecdotes or eye opening stories about cricket and its fan following that you discovered while working on the league?
TD: It’s been truly exciting this Minor League season to see so many new fans who have never been to a cricket game experience it in person for the first time, often with their families. This is how we will spread and grow the game in the long-term here, by embracing and encouraging new fans to see how wonderful cricket is live.
Read: MINOR LEAGUE CRICKET WEEK EIGHT PREVIEW (September 16, 2021)
AB: There are reports about how the major league in the US has already got big names like Shahrukh Khan and Satya Nadella associated with it. Can you tell us more?
TD: Yes, our website has the full list of investors – we are very pleased and delighted that many well-known investors have made early commitments to the league, showcasing its potential.
The same is true of our partnerships with Toyota and SLING TV, who have sponsored the Minor League, showing the commercial appeal and potential for cricket in the USA.