x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Twenty20 cricket will suit the American audience

There is enough evidence that cricket has an ardent following in the United States. That interest can be tapped by staging more Twenty20 internationals there such as the ones between the West Indies and New Zealand.

The West Indies beat New Zealand in the first Twenty20 international in Florida, but cricket was the real winner. Lynne Sladky / AP Photo
The West Indies beat New Zealand in the first Twenty20 international in Florida, but cricket was the real winner. Lynne Sladky / AP Photo

Which two countries were involved in cricket's first international match? If you are not a trivia buff, the answer may come as a surprise.

It is not England and Australia. Thirty-three years before those countries played each other, the United States squared off against Canada on September 24, 1844, at Bloomingdale Park in New York. More than 10,000 fans watched that game, which is the oldest international sporting event, predating the Olympics by nearly 50 years.

Cricket was a prominent sport in the US in those days, with presidents George Washington and John Adams reportedly among the patrons. Its popularity suffered during the civil war (it was easier for the troops to play an impromptu game of baseball). The formation of the Imperial Cricket Conference in 1909 dealt a further blow as it left the US out of international cricket since it was not a British colony.

There is an effort to take the game back to the Americas, and the two Twenty20s between New Zealand and the West Indies in Florida at the weekend is a step in that direction.

With more than 30,000 registered players, 950 clubs, 48 leagues and around 200,000 people who play cricket of some sort at weekends, cricket has a huge potential in the US. There are an estimated 15 million fans as well and around 15,000 of them came to watch the West Indies and New Zealand.

Hopefully the stadium at Lauderhill will see more international cricket. With Twenty20, cricket has the perfect pill to resurrect the sport in the Americas and they need to use it

arizvi@thenational.ae

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