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World Cup was a milestone for cricket’s global ambitions

The T20 World Cup concluded with an exhilarating final that saw India crowned champions on Saturday, marking a potentially pivotal moment for cricket’s global expansion.

The International Cricket Council (ICC) viewed this World Cup, expanded to include 20 teams and with some matches held in the USA, as a catalyst for increasing the sport’s popularity worldwide. The decision allowed more teams from emerging cricket nations to showcase their talent on a global stage, while also introducing cricket to American audiences, traditionally outside its mainstream.

This strategy carried risks; smaller associate nation teams needed to be competitive rather than mere participants, and the limited cricket infrastructure in the USA required upgrades, and in some cases, new facilities.

Overall, the tournament can be considered a success, albeit with qualifications. Associate nations made significant impacts from the outset, such as the USA’s thrilling victory over Canada at Grand Prairie Stadium near Dallas, which sparked newfound interest in the sport across the country, especially highlighted by the USA’s historic win over Pakistan.

Nepal’s passionate performances and strong fan support further underscored the positive impact of lesser-known teams participating in major tournaments. Former West Indies captain Chris Gayle, a tournament ambassador, noted, “It has had a huge impact on associate teams… seeing the USA in the Super Eights… that win over Pakistan… showed they were serious contenders.”

The success of Afghanistan, reaching the semi-finals and defeating teams like Australia, demonstrated the developmental pathway for emerging cricketing nations.

While the tournament aimed to pique American curiosity in cricket rather than convert fans from other sports, it successfully engaged South Asian immigrant communities, who form a core cricket-loving demographic in the USA. The vibrant atmosphere at matches, particularly the India-Pakistan clash in New York, underscored the effectiveness of this approach.

However, logistical challenges surfaced, especially with the cricket pitches in the USA, including criticism of the New York wicket for its uneven bounce and drainage issues at Lauderhill, leading to multiple rain disruptions.

Gayle suggested future tournaments avoid co-hosting across different regions, advocating for singular hosting in either the Caribbean or the USA to streamline logistics and fan accessibility.

Looking forward, the focus for cricket in the USA shifts to nurturing the momentum gained, with hopes pinned on Major League Cricket’s upcoming season, featuring high-profile signings like Pat Cummins, Steve Smith, Aiden Markram, David Miller, and Shakib Al Hasan, to sustain and grow interest in the sport domestically.

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