Everything is happening in Texas as cricket tries to spark a spark, from press conferences in front of bald eagle sculptures to construction workers working through the night.
Grand Prairie for the debut of the newly formed American franchise cricket league
Grand Prairie, Texas, a metropolis of 200,000, is at two in the morning. Most of the city’s inhabitants are soundly asleep, but a lot of commotion emanates from around US Interstate Highway 30’s Exit 34. Major League Cricket (MLC) tournament director Justin Geale and a limited handful of his employees are working through the night to build the venue in time for the first ball of the league’s debut season, which is less than 18 hours away. The Texas Airhogs, a minor league baseball team, called this stadium home until 2020. But the cancellation of the 2020 little league baseball season by Covid set off a chain reaction that led to the Airhogs folding, MLC taking over the stadium’s lease, and a $20 million investment to rebuild and convert the stadium to cricket. The outfield had to be reconfigured for cricket, which required tearing down the previous seating arrangements before repairing the grass and putting in new seats everywhere. Even while the stadium may not appear brand-new to passing motorists in the neighborhood, the interior still has a robust fresh paint aroma. Newly erected section-pole markings’ cement is still drying. Power drills continue to whirr as cup holders are fitted on chairback seats in the stadium’s upscale sections. Seats are being covered with numbered stickers a little distance away. The sound of “Chicken Fried” by the Zac Brown Band blasting from one of the construction workers’ speakerphones is the only thing that breaks the monotony of moving through every seat of the empty stadium. The construction foreman stated that they would be working for a further six hours to complete the project long after sunrise.
In temperatures well above 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) all week, local workers who have never attended a cricket match have sweated thousands of hours, mostly in 15-hour shifts that end only for a union-mandated nine-hour break before they return to repeat the 15-hour cycle once more, to prepare Grand Prairie for the debut of the newly formed American franchise cricket league. After the tournament’s trophy unveiling and captains’ press conference, Sameer Mehta, co-founder of MLC, tells ESPNcricinfo in Dallas that “growing cricket in America is not a piece of cake.” We face a unique set of difficulties here. Certain cities are only mildly interested. Even though they enjoy the sport, fans not accustomed to watching local cricket tend to concentrate on matches abroad. We have a beautiful sport that perplexes people. Is it T20, is it one day, or is it five days? Finally, we need more facilities. “So, after four years, we have made progress. In Grand Prairie, we have one facility that is well done. We have a facility in Morrisville that we are improving and that the city was gracious enough to create. There are four more on the way. I’m happy with how things are going right now. We are just getting started. Back then, it wasn’t the beginning. Back then, we were constructing something. We’ll now get down to business. Mehta thinks the Dallas Metroplex local community will support local cricket, which is one of the reasons the Grand Prairie venue was sought for clinching the lease around the end of 2020. South Asian impact is strong in regions like Plano and Irving, as evidenced not only by the number of South Asian businesses but also by the fact that Willow TV—MLC’s American TV broadcast partner—has more than 250,000 customers in the Dallas and Houston metro areas. Grand Prairie stands in stark contrast to Lauderhill, Florida’s fleeting status as a neutral venue where 15,000 fans flocked there during the summer of 2019 to watch India play matches against the West Indies while the USA played in front of 19 spectators just weeks later on their home ODI debut against teams like Papua New Guinea and Namibia.“When you enter baseball, the facilities are incredible. When you enter a stadium, you think, “Wow, this could be cricket in America.” I am still determining how long it would take to get there, but you can picture cricket functioning similarly. It feels distinctively different from anywhere else in the globe.
Faf du Plessis, the captain of the Texas Super Kings, on American sports Mehta’s $20 million investment wager on Grand Prairie may have some merit. Grand Prairie Stadium’s 7,200-seat capacity has already been confirmed as sold out for the venue’s opening night, although 1,000–2,000 seats were handed away gratis to area MLC academy players and their families. For the final seven games in Texas’ first week before the tournament moves to Morrisville, North Carolina, ticket sales have not been quite as strong. However, the number of revenue-generating ticket sales has been strong enough to be in the mid-four figures, a level of daily ticket sales that is unheard of for a cricket tournament in America.
Mehta predicts that “five of those days are going to be sold out,” anticipating a higher volume of purchasers on gameday. “Those three days will all be at least 50 percent full and probably sold out. That differs from saying we won’t invite sure academy students to fill some seats. We have sold almost $2 million worth of tickets regarding the event’s finances. Both the merchandise and we are fine. “There will be three days where attendance may not be at capacity, but otherwise, individuals have expressed adequate interest to attend. Again, this is Texas in the middle of summer [with a predicted high temperature of 103F at game time]. Still, due to the world calendar and the need to fit 11 games into a short period without a significant marketing effort, we could not find another window to play. Most Texas games will be sold out, and Morrisville will be completely sold out. It has been highly organic.
“You come to a sport in America, it’s very big,” du Plessis said at the captains’ press conference, held at the Perot Investments headquarters in Dallas, in a wing decorated with Texas-sized American flags and enormous statues of American bald eagles (H Ross Perot Jr. is a co-owner of the Texas Super Kings and the grandson of the late influential Texan billionaire best remembered for his unsuccessful 1992 US presidential run against George Bush and Bill Clinton).“When you enter baseball, the facilities are incredible. When you enter a stadium, you say, “Wow,” and think, “This could be cricket in America.” I do not know how long it would take to get there, but you can see cricket functioning similarly. It feels distinctively different from anywhere else in the globe.
I would like to hang out with these folks, whether it’s baseball or American football, high-level elite athletes getting together and sharing a dressing room… For cricket to develop, these other sports figures must also discuss it. For this to be successful, all Americans must get involved. That includes players who are American. The debut press conference needed several things, including an American accent at the podium. While Pakistani players dominate the leadership of PSL teams, Indian players lead IPL teams, and West Indian players lead CPL teams, American players have mostly been ignored in the first season.
Fast bowler Ali Khan, though, has emerged as one of the USA’s top franchise players during the past five years. He made a significant splash in the summer of 2018 when he helped Trinbago Knight Riders win the CPL. Since then, he has become a mainstay in many other Knight Riders-affiliated squads, becoming the first American to play for Kolkata Knight Riders in the IPL in 2020. Khan has a particular reason for playing for the Knight Riders on opening night when they take on the Texas Super Kings. He resides in the state after moving from Ohio in 2020 and marrying a Texan woman with Pakistani ancestry this past May. “Playing for Knight Riders, the team I’ve been a part of for a while, and playing in Texas, where I currently reside, that’s incredibly thrilling. Having your own family and friends go to see it is always exciting. It changes everything to have a facility like this in America.
Ali Khan, a fast bowler for the USA and Knight Riders It’s an essential time for cricket in America, according to Khan. “I predict that it will be a big success. Over the years, many individuals have waited for this to occur. So something is finally coming to our land. I’ve been playing franchise cricket worldwide, but I’m especially looking forward to seeing the league in our backyard since it is so amazing. I am eager to get it going. “Playing for Knight Riders, the team I’ve been a part of for a while, and playing in Texas, where I currently reside, that’s incredibly thrilling. Having your own family and friends go to see it is always exciting. It changes everything to have a facility like this in America. From here, only better things can happen.
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