T20 Cricket World Cup sparks popular interest and business in insular New York

Fans at the India-Ireland T20 World Cup tournament match played in East Meadow, Long Island, on June 6, 2024, are shown live at the Occulus outside New York’s World Trade Center set up to introduce the game to visitors from around the world. PHOTO: South Asia Monitor

After 273 years since the first recorded cricket match in America, a large outdoor screen at the World Trade Center at the heart of Manhattan shows live the games of the T20 World Cup being played 50 km away in a Nassau County stadium and across the West Indies and the US in Lauderhill, Florida and Dallas, Texas.

In a country where baseball and basketball are the main sporting passions, TV news programs are explaining the nuances of cricket using the metaphors of bowlers and pitchers, sixers and home runs, which is setting off a spark of awareness about the game that is almost a religion across South Asia and has an estimated 2.5 billion fans around the world.

Hundreds of New Yorkers and visitors to the World Trade Center from around the globe are watching the matches and trying to find out more about a sport that seems mysterious, having faded slowly since the 19th century. Nearby, at practice nets coaches and visitors try bowling and batting to get a feel for the sport.

The crowds are expected to swell to thousands on Sunday, June 9, for the relay of the India-Pakistan fixture and other matches featuring 20 cricket-playing countries culminating in Barbados, in the Caribbean, on June 29.

In all there are 55 matches, with six nations within the West Indies will also playing host: Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Guyana, Saint Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago.

As the India-Ireland match was playing out on a giant screen for New Yorkers and visitors from around the world on Wednesday, a Japanese man watching the Irish team bat waited impatiently for the Indian side to take the field while trying to decipher the game and wondering why there were no centuries that he had heard of in T20.

Jeanne, an India fan from Barbados wearing a team shirt, was there on Wednesday, June 5, with Yvonne, a shamrock-wearing Irish American New Yorker, for the India-Ireland game at East Meadow on the big screen.

“We’re rivals today”, said Gina.

With the team from the land of her ancestors coming to play, Yvonne said she took a crash course in cricket from her friend, but added, “I’m having a problem dissociating from baseball”.

Yvonne, a lifelong cricket fan who has developed a love for India, was asked if she saw cricket becoming popular.

Pointing to her friend, she said, “Yeah, I think it will do well.”

Visiting from Ireland, Lee Mitchell who said he hadn’t played cricket since he was nine, tried batting at the nets.

Afterwards, he said he was hoping Ireland would give India a drubbing, but the match ended with an eight-wicket win for India.

Mitchell said cricket is “not massive in Ireland, but definitely it’s getting bigger.”

Leonard Prasad, a New Yorker from Guyana, tried his hand at bowling and batting at the nets and said, “It’s amazing.”

He comes from a culture seeped in cricket, but his two children, he said are interested in tennis and golf.

“I want to get them interested in cricket,” he said.

Prasad said he was going for the Netherlands-South Africa at East Meadows on Saturday with American friends.

His brother, he said, had managed to get tickets for Sunday’s India-Pakistan match, the holy grail for cricket lovers.

The Port Authority, which operates the World Trade Center, sponsored the cricket spectacle.

“When we heard about cricket being the second most-watched sport in the world, we wanted to get involved in, offer our platform and our traffic numbers to this sport that really hasn’t been spotlighted domestically,” said Arianna Kane a program manager for the organization.

“Everyone’s been incredibly excited that we’re showing something that is not very popular here, but we’re bringing the popularity domestically, teaching people who’ve never heard about cricket or don’t understand cricket,” she said.

“And then the people that grew up with it in their home countries are excited to see it here because they don’t often get to see it and it’s bringing back childhood memories for everybody,” Kane said.

Anderson Economic Group, an economic and business consultancy, has estimated that just the India-Pakistan match is expected to benefit the New York metro region by $78 million – $46 million in direct benefits and $32 million indirectly.

AEG said it arrived at the number by taking into account the ticket sales, direct attendee spending from domestic and overseas travelers, new stadium construction investment, and other impacts on the region.

“The Cricket World Cup is an unprecedented sporting event for cricket fans in the US and will also attract thousands of global visitors, likely spurring a positive spillover effect on cricket’s resurgence in the US,” said Shay Manawar, a senior AEG analyst.

(Used under special arrangement with South Asia Monitor)



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