World-class cricket is finally coming to the United States with “three or four” matches being planned for south Florida next year, a top Caribbean official told Reuters on Thursday.
The matches will be Twenty20 fixtures, the relatively new form of cricket that takes just three hours — shorter than an average Major League Baseball game.
They will be part of the Caribbean Premier League T20, a competition which is gearing up for its third season and already has celebrity involvement, with Hollywood actor Mark Wahlberg among the franchise owners.
“The plan is for three or four matches in Fort Lauderdale,” Caribbean Premier League CEO Damien O’Donohoe told Reuters in a telephone interview.
O’Donohoe, who hopes to establish a full-time franchise in North America, said next year’s matches would be played at the Central Broward Stadium in Lauderhill, the only internationally certified cricket ground in the United States.
O’Donohoe is confident that the large Caribbean community in south Florida will pack out the stadium, which holds less than 10,000 people, but he is hopeful that Americans will also attend.
“Americans love watching the best players in the world. If anyone’s in position to give it a shot, we’re best positioned,” he said.
Twenty20 cricket is a fast-paced game that bears little resemblance to five-day test matches that are often played at a soporific pace and are losing appeal even in traditional cricket-playing countries outside Australia and England.
In baseball parlance, each team sends down the equivalent of 120 pitches in Twenty20 — or less if the batting team loses all 10 wickets (outs in baseball).
Sixes (the equivalent of a home run) are far more common in Twenty20 than homers are in baseball.
The new shortened form of cricket has become wildly popular in cricket-playing countries, particularly in India where the world’s top players are paid millions, salaries that rival those in major American sports.
The Caribbean Twenty20 has six franchises – one each in Jamaica, Trinidad, Barbados, Guyana, St. Lucia and St. Kitts.
The teams comprise mainly the best players from West Indies, along with a sprinkling of overseas stars.
Wahlberg has equity in the Barbados Tridents franchise, while Bollywood icon Shah Rukh Khan has just bought the Trinidad and Tobago Red Steel.
Scottish actor Gerard Butler owns part of the Jamaica Tallawahs.
This year’s league will run from June 20 until July 26, but O’Donohoe hopes to move the competition to October next year to avoid clashing with the English season, thereby allowing more top internationals to participate.
He has plans for a full-time franchise in North America, with New York, Toronto and south Florida among the leading candidates.
“Next year will be a ‘dip-our-toes-in-the-water’ exercise, but absolutely that is the plan,” said O’Donohoe. “If any form of cricket is going to be successful, it’s going to be Twenty20. We really believe in the product we have.
“We might just have to show Americans that a six is a home run.” – Reuters