Bold new US cricket strategy
A temporary pop-up stadium in Central Park is being considered as a way of bringing cricket to a new audience
28 October 2017, 02:58 PM AEST
A future World T20 event could be played in the US, with New York's Central Park touted as a possible venue in a bold new strategy to take cricket to the US.
The untapped United States market has long been eyed as a source of enormous growth, and Cricket Australia are spearheading ICC investigations into hosting an international tournament there sometime between 2023 and 2031.
"We know that within 50km or so of New York City there are literally tens of thousands of cricket fans. And we also know the propensity of Indian fans to travel from all over America," Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland told News Corp.
"There’s lots of expats there. To that end we don’t need to just look at the traditional American stadiums, we can also look a little bit creatively at the opportunity to play a big international match, to make a statement in an iconic place like Central Park."
The Central Park plan – a temporary pop-up stadium with a drop in pitch somewhere in the vast 843 acre site – is just one of the left-field proposals being considered.
While a cricket stadium popping up in the middle of Central Park sounds fanciful, there's no shortage of space in the park. The Great Lawn area, a vast sprawling open space dotted with baseball diamonds, occupies some 55 acres. For perspective, the MCG stadium occupies around five acres.
"This might be a ridiculous dream, but just imagine Australia versus India played at Central Park on Manhattan Island,” Sutherland said.
"Perhaps there are other good examples of places across America where you could play a big game like that with temporary grandstands.
"My personal view is that it would be great at some stage in the next cycle for the ICC to commit to having a world event in the USA. Why not? Bring big games and big names to the country, it’s one of the biggest commercial markets in the world."
A global cricket tournament in the US would mirror the approach taken by the round-ball football code, which enjoyed a surge of popularity after hosting the 1994 Fifa World Cup in the country.
However, the lack of suitable oval stadiums provides an obstacle cricket must overcome.
Shane Warne and Sachin Tendulkar headlined a series of exhibition T20 games at baseball venues across the US in 2015, to huge crowds in New York, Houston and Los Angeles.
A follow up series initially pencilled in for October this year has failed to materialise but Warne at least demonstrated what could be achieved, although it's unlikely converted baseball diamonds with their narrow dimensions would be suitable to host a global tournament with professional players at the peak of their powers.
The Caribbean Premier League has held matches in Florida in recent years, while West Indies played India - also in Florida - in two T20Is last year.
Sutherland though is unperturbed and believes there is plenty of time to iron out the details if the full ICC board can be convinced.
"The reality is if you give enough lead time and telegraph it, you can get there,” Sutherland said.
"There’s two or three stadiums now, there are stadiums you can convert and there’s green space you can convert with temporary grandstands.
"Soccer is a good analogy in terms of the big decisions Fifa and others made in terms of their desire to grow the game in the US a long time ago.
"There’s a very clear strategy in how to grow the game and there’s a lot of layers to that … and as I often talk about it’s building from the top down and the bottom up.
"There are tens of thousands of people who live in America who play cricket every week during summer.
"Participation is really important, engaging with the competition, but also at the higher level, creating aspiration to play for your country and having a pathway competition, including in the college system."
It's been reported that more than a quarter of all international visitors to Australia and New Zealand for the 2015 World Cup came from the US, and the nation is the fourth biggest TV rights market behind India, Australia and England.