Why there’s still hope for cricket in America yet

SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AFP/Getty Images Most people in the United States are no doubt unaware that since the beginning of the week, a sixth of the world’s population has been jubilantly celebrating. That’s because on Monday, India emerged victorious in the very first Twenty20 World Cup in a “heart-stopping” final—against Pakistan, no less. It’s the country’s first ...

599007_070928_cricket_05.jpg
599007_070928_cricket_05.jpg

SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AFP/Getty Images

Most people in the United States are no doubt unaware that since the beginning of the week, a sixth of the world's population has been jubilantly celebrating. That's because on Monday, India emerged victorious in the very first Twenty20 World Cup in a "heart-stopping" final—against Pakistan, no less. It's the country's first major trophy since cricket-obsessed India won the Cricket World Cup in 1983.

To purists, Twenty20 is just not real cricket. Lasting only three hours and with a maximum of 20 overs (i.e. six consecutive bowls) per side, Twenty20 requires different on-field tactics than regular test matches, which can last as long as five days. The atmosphere at games is also starkly different. Music roars in the background, the crowd feverishly anticipates a big six (the batsman hitting the ball over the boundary line for six runs) or a wicket (the batsman getting out) at every ball bowled, and even cheerleaders—previously unheard of at cricket matches—prance around in a commercial spectacle. Cricket historian Gideon Haigh explains, "It's about crowds. It's about television." In other words, it's the perfect American game. And there's big money to be made.

SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AFP/Getty Images

Most people in the United States are no doubt unaware that since the beginning of the week, a sixth of the world’s population has been jubilantly celebrating. That’s because on Monday, India emerged victorious in the very first Twenty20 World Cup in a “heart-stopping” final—against Pakistan, no less. It’s the country’s first major trophy since cricket-obsessed India won the Cricket World Cup in 1983.

To purists, Twenty20 is just not real cricket. Lasting only three hours and with a maximum of 20 overs (i.e. six consecutive bowls) per side, Twenty20 requires different on-field tactics than regular test matches, which can last as long as five days. The atmosphere at games is also starkly different. Music roars in the background, the crowd feverishly anticipates a big six (the batsman hitting the ball over the boundary line for six runs) or a wicket (the batsman getting out) at every ball bowled, and even cheerleaders—previously unheard of at cricket matches—prance around in a commercial spectacle. Cricket historian Gideon Haigh explains, “It’s about crowds. It’s about television.” In other words, it’s the perfect American game. And there’s big money to be made.

As the Economist puts it, “Cricket is the single shared passion of over a billion people in India, and another 350m across South Asia.” Not to mention a large, wealthy, and frequently cricket-devoted diaspora population and the many commonwealth countries that have taken to the game. This means huge market potential, not just in ticket sales, but broadcast rights, advertising and sponsorships, and merchandise. And with regular cricket already globalized, Twenty20 can only extend its reach further. Kapil Dev, a former Indian cricket star, points out, “This game is fast, it’s exciting, it can go to America, it can go to China.”

Americans certainly don’t have the patience for five days of regular cricket, but Twenty20 might catch on. Watch this space.

Prerna Mankad is a researcher at Foreign Policy.

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