x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Pity the Americans

It's the biggest day in American sport - today in Dubai, the US cricket team faces the UAE in a warm-up for the International Cricket Council's World Twenty20 qualifiers.

It's the biggest day in American sport. Bigger than June 12 when the US faces England at the World Cup in South Africa. Bigger than Sunday at the Masters or opening day of the baseball season. Today in Dubai, the US cricket team faces the UAE in a warm-up for the International Cricket Council's World Twenty20 qualifiers. And, yes, the Indianapolis Colts also play the New Orleans Saints. Few in the US understand cricket, much less follow the game or participate in it. This speaks to one of the weaknesses of America's soft power. Two of the most popular sports in the US, American football and baseball, are incomprehensible to most of the world. In a global era, where, to play on Thomas Friedman's expression, the playing field is flat, international sport matters more. The pitch is not just for competition. At its best, it is a place to build bonds between nations. The UAE has clearly used this to its advantage, hosting international competitions in football, cricket, tennis, and rugby, and developing its own talent in these sports.

The US is an emerging power in football - just ask the Spanish side who lost to them last summer. More than a billion people across the world will marvel at the American athleticism (and marketing) on display at the Superbowl. But pity the poor Americans: so few of them can appreciate a great fast bowler.