America’s Major League Cricket Set To Ride Momentum Of T20 World Cup

America’s Major League Cricket Set To Ride Momentum Of T20 World Cup

After a momentous T20 World Cup co-hosted by the U.S., marked by a $30 million cricket stadium in New York along with a stirring underdog performance by the national team, hopes are high for a pivotal second season of Major League Cricket.

While this year’s marquee cricket tournament was expectantly mostly in the shadows in the world’s biggest sports market, it did receive significant exposure with coverage in media institutions like The New York Times, CNN and The Washington Post.

No one thinks it will become mainstream in the U.S. but the sleeping giant – with cricket by some metrics the second most popular sport in the world – has finally awakened.

It came just before the much-anticipated second season of MLC, the lucrative professional T20 league in the U.S. luring top players around the world. MI New York and Seattle Orcas launched the latest edition on Friday in a rematch of last year’s final.

As I reported, the MLC’s historic first season exceeded financial targets with revenues of $8 million, but its launch was undoubtedly helped by the novelty factor after previous attempts by administrators to strike gold in America failed.

“Could have been some element of that (novelty factor), but I think this fanbase is looking for high quality cricket on the field,” MLC chief executive Vijay Srinivasan told me.

“We want to make sure of the standards befitting American professional sports and I think we delivered that (last season) and were recognized in the world of cricket.”

MLC has been able to secure major sponsorship deals, highlighted by Cognizant – a multinational information technology services and consulting company – becoming its first title sponsor.

“We are growing. We definitely have been very successful in sponsorship sales and certainly we want to deliver and show value,” Srinivasan said.

As I reported previously, salary caps for teams are to remain the same, but top players will still be handsomely remunerated and earn around $175,000 for a minimum of five games – rivalling the highest figure per game in T20 leagues outside of the money-spinning Indian Premier league.

While Indian players are not allowed to play outside of the IPL, a slew of stars will play in this season’s MLC – many from Australia highlighted by San Francisco’s marquee signing of Pat Cummins to a four-year deal.

Ahead of this season, MLC received official T20 league status with tournament playing records counted towards format statistics.

“The goal is to be competitive (financially) with the top leagues and there will be adjustment that happens as we grow,” Srinivasan said. “That’s (salary caps) something we’ll have to review every season.

“We’ve got some really strong names coming here. Ultimately, the teams and the players are what defines the product.”

While things are looking rosy in American cricket, there has been familiar warring behind the scenes with governing body USA Cricket amid continual turmoil after a spate of resignations and chief executive Dr. Noor Murad having his contract terminated earlier this year.

As I reported in April, USA Cricket avoided calls for suspension, but its funding is being ‘controlled’ by the sport’s governing body. The situation is likely to be a talking point at the International Cricket Council’s upcoming Annual General Meeting.

Forbes‘Controlled Funding’ Put In Place For USA Cricket Ahead Of Home T20 World Cup

USA Cricket sanctions MLC, which is administered by American Cricket Enterprises after signing a 50-year commercial rights agreement in 2019.

“Governance is always a challenge, but it needs to sort itself out,” Srinivasan, a co-founder of ACE, said. “We are certainly hopeful that things will stabilize.”

There are plans to expand MLC, with Chicago and Atlanta touted as possible new franchises amid a longer tournament earmarked to be played over much of June and July moving forward.

But, right now, MLC is hoping to continue the trajectory of the British bat and ball sport with deep roots in a cricket backwater. While figures have varied, with the sport’s governing body having claimed that there are 50 million cricket fans in the U.S., there is already an invested fanbase for MLC.

“Willow (cricket broadcaster into North America) goes into around four-five million homes, so that probably translates to a fanbase of something in the range of 10 million people,” Srinivasan said.

“There’s a lot of interest and excitement in MLC after the T20 World Cup. I think we can ride that momentum.”

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