By John Broven
Cricket is an immensely popular game played and watched throughout the world, yet has made minimal impact in the United States. That could change with part of the 2024 International Cricket Council Men’s T20 World Cup finals being held in the U.S. Rather incredibly, Long Island will host eight matches.
The local games will be played at Eisenhower Park, East Meadow, between June 3-12 at a temporary modular 34,000-seat facility, grandly named Nassau County International Cricket Stadium. The site was chosen after NIMBY opposition ruled out first-choice Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx. Credit should go to Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman (R) for spotting the opportunities for the Long Island economy and tourism.
T20 cricket is an all-action, spectator friendly and shortened format of the game that is perfect for television. According to the ICC, the 2022 biennial tournament attracted global audiences of 1.28 billion.
In the T20 format of the game, both teams consist of the usual 11 players. A toss of a coin decides who bats or fields. The team batting first will aim to set a run total with a potential winning score of at least 160, that is eight runs and over. That’s a run feast, rather like baseball’s Home Run Derby. The team batting second has to chase down the target score. If so, it has won the match, otherwise the defending team takes the day. It can make for a nail-biting finish.
To add to the sense of theater, the fielding is spectacular and teams wear colorful uniforms.
Games will also be played in Dallas and Lauderhill, Florida, as well as exotic locations in the Caribbean. The top-seeded teams out of 20 are India, New Zealand, England (current T20 champion), Australia, Pakistan, South Africa, West Indies and Sri Lanka. After two group stages — one known as the Super 8 round — there will be two semifinals and the final itself, scheduled for June 29 at Kensington Oval, Bridgetown, Barbados.
The teams competing at Nassau stadium will include the top-rated India, Pakistan, South Africa and Sri Lanka along with Ireland, Canada, Netherlands, Bangladesh and the United States.
The matches are as follows:
June 3: Sri Lanka vs. South Africa
June 5: India vs. Ireland
June 7: Canada vs. Ireland
June 8: Netherlands vs. South Africa
June 9: India vs. Pakistan
June 10: South Africa vs. Bangladesh
June 11: Pakistan vs. Canada
June 12: USA vs. India
The highlights will be Sri Lanka vs. South Africa, India vs. Pakistan (the big one!) and United States vs. India, but every game will hold interest for the deprived lovers of cricket living in the U.S.
Official ticket prices have not yet been announced but as long as they are reasonable, I am sure Indian, Pakistani, Irish, Canadian and other expats will flock to Eisenhower Park to support their home countries, along with U.S. cricket fans. There will also be organized viewing areas in other parts of Nassau County.
If cricket is to make a breakthrough here, it will be through the quickfire T20 one-day variant. The upcoming international tournament at the three U.S. venues will help the sport’s profile considerably, with exciting cricket on hand played by the world’s top teams. And Long Island’s gain is the Bronx’s loss.
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English-born John Broven, of East Setauket, is an award-winning American music history author and a copyeditor with TBR News Media. Part 2 will be an attempt to explain the inner mysteries of the game of cricket. With thanks to Richard Tapp, of Burgess Hill, England.