world : India v Pakistan helps cricket's American dream gather pace

world : India v Pakistan helps cricket's American dream gather pace
world : India v Pakistan helps cricket's American dream gather pace

Wednesday 12 June 2024 10:51 PM

Nafeza 2 world - Citi Field, the home of New York Mets baseball team, was opened for fans unable to get in Nassau County International Cricket Stadium to watch a game on the big screen.

No charge, but the MLB marketing men are not soft. Just as the ICC want its piece of the American pie, cricket’s cousin is desperate to grab its slice of the South Asian market.

“The ticket prices were a little steep for this game but I guess it’s supply versus demand,” said Irfan, a Pakistan fan, who had done an overnight drive from Toronto to make the fixture.

He was one of the few who got lucky in the ballot. Others paid up to $2,000 (approx £1,571) on resale platforms, although prices dropped considerably as the game edged closer.

The devotion of the South Asian diaspora in the United States to playing, attending and watching cricket matches in the US is what can sustain it.

Hafeez, a Pakistan fan from Coventry, sat with his five-month baby in a pram on the steps of the stand as he watched the action unfold in the middle having won tickets in a competition.

“You can see from the passion of the fans what cricket means,” he said.

For the first time at this pop-up stadium in Eisenhower Park the plastic wrapping was also taken off the comfy seats in the corporate sections which were barely used for earlier games.

Cricket royalty was bussed in for the day. Sachin Tendulkar was mobbed, Bollywood stars hob-nobbed. Noble-prize winning activist Malala Yousafzai cheered on Pakistan.

Chris Gayle, who wore a dazzling all-white suit with one sleeve orange and green for India and the other green for Pakistan, strolled about the outfield with a huge grin on his face. He was even asking the players to sign it.

It was brash, over-bearing and full of razzamatazz. Even ringmaster Ravi Shastri's act at the toss was cranked up a few more notches.

There is an appeal for the players of India and Pakistan being here, too. Not just in terms of growing their own brands stateside.

Kohli and his Bollywood superstar wife Anushka Sharma were able to slip out for coffee in New York the past few days – almost unthinkable back home.

Security was extremely tight. Sniffer dogs, bomb disposal experts, military-style armoured vehicles, helicopters circling the ground, surveillance teams and members from every branch of police imaginable. Even covert snipers in place.

“The Super Bowl on steroids” was how Nassau County executive Bruce Blakeman, one of the key men in bringing this even to New York, described the security preparations for the event.

Everything's bigger in the US, after all.

So where from here? Major League Cricket will fill the breach given the cast of stellar names on their books, with this year’s edition set to start a matter of days after the World Cup ends.

A delegation from the International Olympic Committee have been in town in recent days checking out the pop-up stadium in New York and meeting various stakeholders.

You can bet your bottom dollar India v Pakistan at Los Angeles 2028 is firmly in their sights.

It will be a case of watch this space to see what happens on US soil between now and then.

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