Move Over Baseball For Your Cricket Cousin

Lisa Albergo's picture

 by Lisa Albergo reporting for AFANA from Chicago

Indian-born Jignesh (Jay) Pandya, chairman of Global Sports Ventures, has announced an idea of bringing professional cricket to the United States. The idea came to him after he noticed a large segment of the 2015 crowd attending the World Cup cricket series in Australia was made up of Americans and Indian spectators. Should the idea take off, it will be an investment of over $2 million and create 17000 new jobs.

After his trip to Australia, Pandya purchased the licensing rights to T20 cricket (a shortened form of the game which lasts about 3 hours in instead of all day or several days) for $70 million. The rights were purchased from the USACA (United States of America Cricket Association) which has 32,000 registered players. According to Pandya, there are "pick up games" in countries such as India, Australia, and England with improvised wickets (trash cans for example), similar to makeshift bases for neighborhood baseball games (trees, fence posts, chalk marks on pavement, etc). According to Pandya, there are local cricket leagues already, but all amateur. He has found that the second highest viewership - over one million for the last world cup - for cricket is the USA and would like to see America host the ICC World Cup in 2024.

In 2015, there was a three-day exhibition in New York, Los Angeles, and Houston which attracted an average attendance of 28,000. So the foundation for a fan base is out there. Pandya has already started signing players to contracts and has plans in place for multi-functional cricket grounds in at least eight American cities within the next few years. All these cricket stadiums in the US, Pandya said would be part of what he described as lifestyle centers which would include high-rise residential and hotel complexes, restaurants, club house, shopping centers, entertainment centers and office facilities. Global has also shortlisted groundskeepers and consultants from India, Pakistan, Australia and New Zealand to make sure the playing surfaces are correct.

While the first eight stadiums will focus on cities with large immigrant populations, Pandya believes in sports-loving America, the word will spread and go mainstream very quickly. He sees no problem in competing with baseball, pointing out that a cricket game was played between Canada and New York in 1844. There is also the economic factor to be considered, with the complexes and the games boosting the local economies once the league is underway.

A lot of people have jumped on board, with lawmakers and government officials seeing the potential. When asked about interest shown from international cricketers, Pandya said a number of them expressed interest in joining the US league. For the time being, however, American players are the primary target. Some are already receiving pay checks and being trained in leagues across the globe. It all comes down to, according to Pandya, "... make our infrastructure ... a lot better ...".

He is not daunted by the lengthy processes required and himself admits having to sometimes "... temper his excitement ..." but still sees the long range vision, "Five years from now, I see this being in the top 10 sports in the U.S.,” he volunteers, “Maybe even better.”

Currently, areas targeted for cricket complexes are San Francisco, New York, Washington DC. Texas, Illinois, Georgia, Florida and New Jersey. The league is expected to be launched in 2019 or 2020


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