MLC, the new cricket league in the United States, has gained significant support from four Indian Premier League franchises, including powerhouse teams like the Mumbai Indians and the Chennai Super Kings. Unlike previous attempts to establish cricket in America, MLC benefits from substantial financial resources and expertise.
In addition to its financial backing and television deals, MLC has received approval from USA Cricket and the International Cricket Council, lending credibility to the league. This official endorsement sets MLC apart from previous short-lived private ventures in the country.
Similar to the Indian Premier League, MLC will feature the shortest and most thrilling format of cricket, Twenty20, and has attracted renowned international players. Notable names like England’s Jason Roy, Australia’s Aaron Finch, South Africa’s Kagiso Rabada, and West Indies’ Sunil Narine have been drafted by the league’s six teams.
While cricket has been played at a recreational level in the USA for many years, the lack of proper facilities remains a challenge in a country where baseball holds a beloved status. To address this, a former baseball park in North Texas, the Grand Prairie Stadium, has been transformed into a cricket-specific venue and will host the league’s opening match between the Texas Super Kings and the Los Angeles Knight Riders. Other matches will be held in Morrisville, North Carolina, with the playoffs and final returning to Texas.
While MLC expects support from fans with cricket-loving backgrounds, their ultimate goal is to gradually win over the broader American public. Tournament director Justin Geale stated that their objective is to grow the game of cricket in the USA and showcase the sport to existing and new fans. With top-quality international players representing the league, Geale believes MLC can provide an excellent cricketing experience.
MLC laid the groundwork for its launch by establishing Minor League Cricket, a 26-team competition that began in 2021 to nurture domestic player development. Each MLC team will consist of a maximum of six foreign players and a minimum of five domestic players. Geale emphasizes the importance of developing a talent pool for the USA national team as a key aspect of their mission.
While managing teams comprising both experienced international players and emerging domestic talents presents a challenge, South African coach Robin Peterson, head coach of the MI New York team backed by the Mumbai Indians, believes it will be a fruitful experience. Peterson has observed how local players benefit from playing alongside superstars and cites the growth of Indian cricket since the inception of the IPL as evidence of the positive impact that such leagues can have on a country’s cricketing development.
Aside from IPL team involvement, Australian cricket bodies like Cricket Victoria and Cricket New South Wales have formed high-performance partnerships with the San Francisco Unicorns and the Washington Freedom, respectively, further reinforcing the league’s connections and support.
MLC has secured broadcast deals with Willow TV, a streaming service whose owners are also investors in the league, as well as with Viacom18 in India, ensuring wide coverage of the matches.
Peterson is optimistic that T20 cricket, with its fast-paced and entertaining nature, has the potential to capture the attention of the American market. He believes that the physicality, fitness, and powerful hitting associated with T20 cricket align well with the American sporting psyche. He considers the MLC an exciting project and believes it’s time for cricket to be taken seriously in America.
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