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USA’s Dramatic Win Against Pakistan in T20 World Cup Could Raise Cricket’s Profile in the Country

USA’s Dramatic Win Against Pakistan in T20 World Cup Could Raise Cricket’s Profile in the Country

  • Despite the efforts to drive the sport’s growth here, conspicuously high prices have deterred many cricket aficionados from seeing the game live, resulting in sparsely full venues.

Cricket is far from a mainstream sport in the United States. Its growth here was hindered by the dominance of baseball, as well as limited commercial appeal. But now, the sport is seeing a resurgence here, thanks in part to thriving South Asian communities here, and in part to Team USA’s stellar performance in the ongoing T20 World Cup, co-hosted by the U.S. and the Caribbean Nations.

This week, the team stunned everyone by defeating Pakistan, in what is being heralded as one of the biggest upsets in sports history. They beat the No. 6 ranked team in a thrilling match in Dallas, Texas, on June 6, cementing its position as a team to reckon with. The U.S. team is No. 18, and this is their first World Cup. 

Team USA was led by skipper Monank Patel, who made a half-century, and was ably supported by Andries Gous (35) and Aaron Jones (36*). These solid runs enabled the hosts to equal Pakistan’s score of 159 in 20 overs. The match then went onto a Super Over, where the hosts prevailed. USA batted first, posting 18 runs on the board. Saurabh Netravalkar was the star as he gave away just 13 runs to Pakistan, and also took the wicket of Iftikhar Ahmed.

Speaking after the victory, Patel, who was named player of the match, said he’s “happy with the win.” Playing against Pakistan for the first time in the World Cup and beating them, “was an unbelievable performance from our side,” he told reporters after the match. “I would say it’s a big day for Team USA and USA cricket community too,” he said. Of course, beating Pakistan in the World Cup is going to open many doors for us,” he added.  “Obviously, hosting the World Cup in the U.S. and performing here as a team, it helps us to grow the cricket in the U.S.” His teammate Aaron Jones told the BBC the “really big” win would “open the eyes” of Americans not following the sport.

With this historic win, the co-hosts, who have never played in the T20 World Cup before, have won their first two games in a competition. They earlier defeated Canada by seven wickets in the opener on June 1. Both teams are playing their first T20 World Cup. USA qualified as they were co-hosts and Canada was part of the World Cop as they won the Americas Qualifier.

That game was historic as ESPN noted. “Long before Australia and England played the first-ever Test in 1877, USA and Canada locked horns in a three-day game in 1844,” the sports network said. Canada won by 23 runs in that match playednijn New York. “One hundred and eighty years later, the same two teams came face to face in Dallas,” the report added.

However, most Americans were unaware of the match or that their country was a co-host. As Morning Brew noted in today’s newsletter, most of the U.S. didn’t see the June 6 game. It “wasn’t broadcast in the U.S. the newsletter noted.

So why is the U.S. co-hosting this tournament so significant? One of the fundamental reasons is “to drive cricket’s growth in the country,” The New York Times explained. “Profits raised from the matches played in New York will be invested into increasing the awareness of the sport.” 

The win definitely adds to the sport’s momentum to the sport in the states. Last year, the U.S. started its own franchise league in 2023. The first season of Major League Cricket (MLC) took place over three weeks in North Carolina and Texas, with six teams representing U.S. cities.

Thursday’s performance has also brought the team’s players into focus.  Eleven of the 15 are of Indian and Pakistani heritage. Star bowler Saurabh Netravalkar went viral after fans learned he’s a principal engineer at Oracle. Pacer Ali Khan is Pakistan-born, while captain Monak Patel is from India. 

Born in Gujarat, Monak Patel played age-group cricket for his home state of Gujarat, including U16 and U18, before moving to the U.S. He got his green card in 2016, according to The Daily Guardian. Three years later, in 2019, he made his debut for the U.S. in a T20I against UAE. He made his ODI debut later that year, against Papua New Guinea. The 31-year-old has scored 507 from 27 T20Is, while also playing 47 ODIs where he has scored 1446 runs. He has represented MI New York in Major League Cricket (MLC).

Saurabh Netravalkar, a former captain of the side, was born in Mumbai. He represented India at the U19 World Cup in 2010 and also played domestic cricket for Mumbai. But he put cricket on the back burner to come to the U.S. and pursue a career in software engineering at Cornell University. He currently works for Oracle. He played for Washington Freedom in the MLC in 2023.

There’s also Nisarg Patel, who like Monank, was born in Gujarat but moved here with his family when he was a teenager. He and his family are settled in Southern California. He played for the team at the 2006 U19 World Cup. He made his senior USA debut against Canada in 2017 and has played 41 ODIs and 21 T20Is so far. He has a master’s degree in pharmaceutical science and has worked in England for a while.

Harmeet Singh was part of the India squad that won the 2012 U19 World Cup under Unmukt Chand’s captaincy. The Mumbai-born played domestic cricket for Tripura. He quit Indian cricket in 2020 and moved here a year later. He made his USA debut only earlier this year, in a T20I against Canada in April. He played for the Seattle Orcas in the MLC in 2023. He was also among the Rajasthan Royals player roster in the 2013 IPL season.

The Delhi-born Milind Kumar represented his state in the Ranji Trophy, apart from also playing for Sikkim and Tripura. He scored 1331 runs in 2018-19 with Sikkim, ending as the top-scorer that season. He was part of the Delhi Capitals and Royal Challengers Bengaluru teams in IPL in 2014 and 2019 respectively, “although he failed to play a single game,” according to The Daily Guardian. After retiring from Indian cricket in 2021, he moved to the U.S. He played for Texas Super Kings in the MLC in 2023, and made his debut for the USA earlier this year in a T20I against Canada in April.

Although cricket is not a popular sport in the U.S. today, it does have roots in the U.S. “There are reports of matches played in America as early as 1751,” as The Guardian noted, adding that “Philadelphia was a hotbed of the game until baseball consumed the country.”

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But as Craig Coyne wrote in Vanity Fair, the reasons for the sport’s disappearance are important “to understand why cricket appears on the cusp of a comeback in the United States.” Examining further, he wrote, “With shorter games and less equipment, baseball surpassed cricket as a way for Civil War soldiers to pass their downtime.” When those men “returned to their hometowns and evangelized what would become known as America’s pastime.” He is hopeful of the sport’s gaining popularity now. “America has been called a land of second chances,” he wrote, “and cricket has thrived within our borders once before. Can it happen again? There’s reason for hope.”

Meanwhile, there’s been a lot of banter on social media about the high price of tickets. Some have also expressed disappointment with lesser-than-expected crowds and also with seating arrangements. 

Peter Della Penna, a freelance cricket journalist, photographer, commentator and broadcaster, has been posting the highlights of the game and his interactions with fans on his Facebook and X page. 

“Today we learned that the old adage that India fans will pay any price to watch them play has been proven false,” he posted on June 5, during the India-Ireland match. “An overwhelming number of tix priced at $1000 in the premium club section were empty,” he wrote. “Of the few who took the bait, some feel like they were scammed out of their cash.”

He also posted an interaction with Ganesh, whom he described as an “old Columbia Cricket Club teammate.” Penna said Ganesh, who’s from Hartford, Connecticut, “paid $225 for a premium ticket, plus $200 for VIP parking, which was a 20-minute walk plus shuttle ride from the stadium,” but “didn’t feel very VIP for $200.” His seat was randomly assigned in an area he didn’t like the sightlines from rather than getting to choose his own seat. “I paid $425 for a bad seat to watch 10 overs.” Would he come back? “Hell no!”

Similarly, Jagan Vinyagam, 48, is originally from Chennai but living in NJ for the last 20 years. Paid $350 for a “premium” ticket, only to be randomly assigned to the last row, top of the stadium, section 247. He feels like he got scammed. “There was no transparency in the ticket-buying process. You could only choose the ticket type, standard or premium, but they would not allow you to pick a specific seat or section. I found out where my seats were 2 weeks ago. I feel like I got scammed. People who paid for Standard seats have better views than me for less money. My wife didn’t want to come with me today because she saw the seating chart and knew there would be no shade.”

As stadiums remain far from full, match after match, all eyes are fixed on tomorrow’s post-anticipated match between India and Pakistan. Will this most anticipated game break the trend? Will it be able to, as expected, be able to pack the Nassau County International Cricket Stadium? As reports in media and social media posts indicate, the outcome could go either way, as conspicuously high prices have deterred many cricket aficionados from seeing the game live. Many are dismayed by the exorbitant rates that make attending the games a luxury few can afford.

Whether it’s at the stadium or in front of their TV sets, tomorrow’s match will most definitely have a record number of Indians and Pakistanis audience. But the most important question to ask Indian American cricket fans is this — who will they support on June 12 — when the USA plays India? 

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