New York Gears Up for T20 World Cup Debut, Bolsters American Cricket Movement

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In the heart of suburban New York, nestled in East Meadow’s Eisenhower Park, a monumental sports stadium starts to take shape, capable of accommodating 34,000 spectators. The soft Kentucky bluegrass underfoot forms a meticulous field that will set the stage for an international cricket tournament—the world-renowned T20 World Cup—next month.

But while the stadium is still finding its feet, eager young cricketers have already started their endeavors across the park under the morning sunlight of a recent Saturday. On a makeshift pitch, these ambitious athletes are practicing batting, bowling, and fielding, perfecting their skills and form.

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While the T20 World Cup marks a landmark debut for cricket on such a grand scale on American soil, the centuries-old English game has been thriving quietly in New York’s urban enclaves. With waves of South Asian and Caribbean immigrants having enriched the city’s cultural tapestry, cricket has increasingly become part of the fabric of American life. Each spring, the parks across the Bronx, Queens, Long Island, and New Jersey come alive with the energy of the weekend competitions, hosted by local recreational leagues.

This time around, however, the American organizers of the fledgling sport hope to harness the momentum of the forthcoming June tournament to propel cricket’s popularity further. The goal is to emulate the generational and cross-cultural surge that soccer experienced when the U.S. hosted its first FIFA World Cup in 1994.

In anticipation of the upcoming T20 World Cup, retired Olympic sprinter Usain Bolt, an honorary ambassador of the event, recently visited the nearly complete Eisenhower stadium. Accompanying him were members of the U.S. cricket squad and former New York football and basketball legends.

Parmanand Sarju, the visionary behind the Long Island Youth Cricket Academy and the host of that Saturday’s practice, couldn’t contain his joy at seeing the specter of the new stadium rising from the very ball field where his youth academy had its humble beginnings. A living testament to how far things have come.

Over a decade ago, Sarju founded the academy out of a desire to pass on to his American-born children the love for cricket that he cultivated in his native Guyana. “There was no understanding of cricket, at least at the youth level,” recalls the Merrick resident. “Now they’re building a stadium here.” A moment of realization that showcases how Cricket which had initially found its home in New York City’s outskirts before extending its reach into the suburbs, nurtured primarily by immigrant families who have influenced their adopted communities’ transformation.

Riding this wave of anticipation, cricket club president Ahmad Chohan of the New York Police Department recognizes the World Cup as a “historic moment” for the game.

Despite being the second most-viewed sport globally – with Indian cricket sensation Virat Kohli boasting 268 million Instagram followers – cricket has only been played by over 200,000 Americans nationwide, across more than 400 local leagues, according to USA Cricket, the body responsible for the men’s national team.

Last year, the U.S. introduced its professional T20 teams through the newly-formed Major League Cricket. This six-team league includes a New York franchise that, for the time being, plays some of its matches in a Texas stadium that will also host the upcoming World Cup’s games.

Venu Pisike, the chairman of USA Cricket, sees the T20 World Cup as a turning point, marking a pivotal moment in the sport’s history in the U.S. Cricket will make its first appearance at the 2028 summer Olympics in Los Angeles in over a century, signalling an international commitment to nurturing growth in the American market. 

Other influential events include the upcoming World Cup, co-hosted by the U.S. and the West Indies, which will showcase a modern version of the game referred to as “Twenty20”. Lasting approximately three hours, it involves aggressive batters, much alike the crowd-favorite Indian Premier League.

Eisenhower Park will host half the matches to be played in the U.S., including a monumental matchup between cricket giants Pakistan and India on June 9. Additionally, the remainder of the 55-match, 20-nation tournament will occur in cricket fields based in Texas and Florida, with later rounds eventuating in Caribbean nations such as Antigua and Trinidad. The championship match will culminate in Barbados on June 29.

Cricket, while relatively new in the American mainstream sports scenario, carries deep roots within the U.S., particularly in New York. The sport was played during the Revolutionary War and even saw the first international match between New York City’s St. George’s Cricket Club and Canada in 1844. Today, being fueled by immigrants from India and other former British colonies, the game finds fresh life and vigor.

Anubhav Chopra, co-founder of the Long Island Premier League, and a resident of Babylon, is among those reviving this love for the game. An Indian-immigrant trying to impart the love of cricket to his three American children, Chopra has already purchased tickets to all the nine games that are due to be held at Eisenhower.

When the tournament concludes, Eisenhower’s temporary stadium will be dismantled, but the cricket field will stand as a testament to its brief but vibrant history. Nassau County Executive, Bruce Blakeman, believes that the remaining cricket field lays the groundwork for a world-class future for local and professional cricket alike in the area. As he asserted, this will stand as a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”