'We are recreating the biggest sports rivalry in the world, which is Indians versus Pakistanis right here in the United States.'
Prakash Bhandari reports.
Cricket, an amateur sport in the United States is undergoing transformation.
The launch of the American Premier League is likely to give the willowy sport a great push.
The APL -- which is currently underway and which has been granted USA Cricket approval -- is going to revolutionalise cricket in the United States.
This event is being organised and promoted by American Sports and Entertainment Group.
Says APL President and CEO Jay Mir, a Pakistani American, "This league brings a special aspect to cricket in this region. APL is entertainment and sports combined. We have an excellent 8,000-capacity stadium in New York that showcases teams named after cricket-loving communities."
"The stadium is right in the heart of New York, which has the biggest concentration of South Asian and Caribbean populations in the US," adds Mir.
"We are recreating the biggest sports rivalry in the world, which is Indians versus Pakistanis right here in the United States, and it is watched by over a billion people across the globe! Cricket is in our blood!" Mir exclaims.
The APL's primary objective is to drive local fan engagement and increase the popularity of the sport through its unique team composition and competition structure.
For the first time in American cricket history, the most valuable player will receive a brand new Chevolette Corvette, provided by APL.
"Given some of the early aspirations expressed by APL and its proposed structure and schedule, we would make cricket more competitive," says USA Cricket Chief Executive Iain Higgins.
"The idea is to provide an exclusive entertainment experience that can help to promote the sport of cricket to new and existing fans," hopes Higgins.
There are just about 200,000 cricketers in a country of 320 million people. Cricket in America was virtually non-existent until a few years ago.
Cricket in the United States was run by the US Cricket Association until 2017. Its effectiveness was deterred by reported squabbles and limited funds due to cricket's lack of popularity compared to other sports in the US.
Since 2019, USA Cricket has run the game in the USA.
Major league cricket is the highest level of domestic cricket sanctioned by USA Cricket, the national governing body for cricket in the States.
A developmental Minor League Cricket is also currently being played.
Even today, there are just two or three dedicated cricket grounds in the US.
Immigrants from cricket playing nations in South Asia and the West Indies helped spark a resurgence in the game's popularity.
The game would have generated larger interest, but the lack of dedicated cricket grounds came as a hindrance.
At present time, there is only one International Cricket Council certified cricket ground located in Lauderhill, Florida.
APL is owned and operated by the American Sports and Entertainment Group.
The APL is made up of seven teams: Team American, Team Indians, Team Windies, Team Aussies, Team English, Team Paks and Team Bengalees.
The T20 format will be followed and it is expected to draw good crowds.
The players have already been selected through a series of nation-wide tryouts throughout the summer at which Mir and his team of scouts sought out the best players for the teams..
Mir says fans will get to witness an IPL-like atmosphere. "Our teams are representatives of seven diverse communities living in the US and we want to bring the communities together. It's going to see high emotions through quality cricket."
Talented players from India like Unmukt Chand have already started playing Minor League Cricket.
Unmukt is likely to inspire a number of other cricketers, particularly those who are not employed by IPL teams.
Niraj Patel, a former Ranji Trophy player who also played for the Rajasthan Royals in the IPL, has migrated to the US and become a national selector.
An annual Harris poll of US sports fans, which ranks football and baseball as America's favorite sports, doesn't even offer cricket as an option. A Columbia University survey estimated there are 15 million cricket fans in the US, most of them hailing from the Commonwealth.
"With the USA being a huge and financially thriving sport market, administrators and investors understandably would be attracted to the business aspect of cricket in the USA," says Coach Arunkumar.
"It's a sporting nation and cricket is on the rise," adds Arunkumar. "Exciting days moving forward."
Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/Rediff.com