- The league, aiming to capture America’s interest, will open with a match between Texas Super Kings and the Los Angeles Knight Riders.
Cricket fans in America rejoice. The sport is finally seeing the light of day with the launch of Major League Cricket in Dallas, Texas, starting today. The league is being operated by American Cricket Enterprises (ACE) and has been sanctioned by USA Cricket, as well as the International Cricket Commission (ICC), as reported by ESPN.
Six teams comprising some of the major cricket players and local American talents would play 18 games, leading up to the championship final on July 30. Eleven matches will take place at Grand Prairie Stadium near Dallas in Texas, while seven games are scheduled to take place at Church Street Park in North Carolina.
Like most other franchise leagues like IPL, BBL, PSL, SA20 and LPL, MLC will be played in T20 format.
The Grand Prairie, a former baseball park, was redeveloped into a cricket stadium in 2022, according to ESPN. “The new stadium has a capacity of close to 7,000.” The other venue, Church Street Park, is in Morrisville, North Carolina, and has “a capacity of around 3,500, which can be expanded up to 5,000.”
ACE is backed by Sameer Mehta and Vijay Srinivasan, founders of Willow TV, the largest cricket broadcaster in North America, and Satyan Gajwani and Vineet Jain of the Times Group in India. Mehta and Srinivasan told The Guardian that they believe “the time is finally right for America to fully embrace” cricket. We are somewhat concerned by and appreciative of USA Cricket’s struggles,” said Mehta, one of the league’s co-CEO.
The British daily calls the league “the richest attempt yet to get Americans hooked on cricket.” The league has received financial backing to the tune of $120 million from a number of investors, including Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, and Shantanu Narayen, chairman and CEO of Adobe. It has the blessing of an International Cricket Council desperate to lift its sport’s profile in America ahead of the 2024 T20 World Cup, which will be co-hosted by the U.S. and the West Indies.
Each team will have a maximum of 19 and a minimum of 16 players including international and local players. The domestic players were signed via a player draft, which was held at the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston on March 19, the ESPN report said.
Harmeet Singh, “who was part of India’s 2012 Under-19 World Cup-winning side, was the first pick, snapped up by Seattle,” ESPN said. Steven Taylor was the first American-born player picked in the draft, by New York, while another former India U-19 start Unmukt Chand, who is here now, went to Los Angeles. Apart from Chand and Harmeet, other Indian players include Chaitanya Bishnoi, Tajinder Singh, Shubham Ranjane and Smit Patel. “All of them have retired from the Indian domestic circuit. Chennai Super Kings star Ambati Rayudu was also to play in the league, to represent Texas Super Kings. However, he withdrew “in the wake of the BCCI’s proposal to introduce a year-long cooling-off period for retired players before they can participate in overseas T20 leagues,” ESPN said.
Some of the high-profile players are Jason Roy, Sunil Narine and Andre Russell (Los Angeles Knight Riders,), Rashid Khan, Trent Boult and Kieron Pollard (MI New York), Aaron Finch, Marcus Stoinis and Corey Anderson (San Francisco Unicorns,), Faf du Plessis, Devon Conway and David Miller (Texas Super Kings), Quinton de Kock, Shimron Hetmyer, Imad Wasim (Seattle Orcas), and Anrich Nortje and Marco Jansen (Washington Freedom).
Four of the six teams — LA Knight Riders, MI New York, Texas Super Kings and Seattle Orcas — are owned by IPL franchise owners, ESPN said. Washington Freedom is owned by Indian-American entrepreneur Sanjay Govil and will have Cricket New South Wales as a high-performance partner. San Francisco Unicorns are owned by Anand Rajaraman and Venky Harinarayan, and they have partnered with Cricket Victoria for their first season.
The first game will be held today at 7:30 p.m. between Texas Super Kings and the Los Angeles Knight Riders.