India and Pakistan, cricket’s fiercest and most lucrative contest, is set to be played in New York in what will be the marquee fixture of next year’s T20 World Cup partially held in the U.S. for the first time.

It has long been anticipated that the match-up between the foes, who don’t play bilateral matches against each other due to political tension, would be played in New York as cricket attempts to seriously make inroads into the congested American sports market.

The Guardian recently reported that the fixtures of June’s T20 World Cup had been finalized and are expected to be released soon. It is little surprise that the marquee clash between India-Pakistan has been earmarked to be played in the most famous city of America.

New York has been at the heart of cricket’s grandiose ambitions for some time. Australia’s former long-time cricket boss James Sutherland once had a rather audacious idea for the T20 World Cup to be held at Central Park.

While Sutherland’s plan was widely mocked six years ago, given the parlous state of internal American cricket politicking and the sport’s wider irrelevancy in the U.S, there has been a lot of effort put into building a foundation and concentrating on the country’s burgeoning cricket-mad South Asian communities.

The sport’s administrators have also tapped into the deep pockets of South Asian businessmen in Silicon Valley, who have enthusiastically backed the lucrative Major League Cricket tournament.

Launched in July, the professional T20 tournament lured many top players in the world and was deemed a financial success. Just a few months after the MLC’s first edition, cricket was included in the Los Angeles 2028 Games to end the sport’s over 100-year absence at the Olympics.

To continue cricket’s momentum in the U.S. – a country deemed a target market by the sport’s power brokers and a tag that has often riled up smaller cricket nations – next year’s T20 World Cup will be played there in a support act to main host the West Indies.

The U.S. landing the event initially came as a surprise with then USA Cricket bosses Paraag Marathe and Iain Higgins telling me in 2020 that the hope was for America to host the tournament in 2026 or 2030.

But with momentum finally growing in cricket’s coveted locale, the T20 World Cup in 2024 – the first major tournament played in the new four-year cycle of events – was granted to the U.S. but the short timeframe has led to logistical issues.

Oval-shaped cricket grounds have different dimensions to baseball and boast complexities with its surfaces that require specifically built infrastructure. Grand Prairie in Dallas staged the bulk of the MLC and will host T20 World Cup matches and so too Broward County in Florida which has been the site of many international fixtures over the years.

But finding suitable infrastructure in New York has proven difficult. Initially, there had been plans to develop a 34,000-seat stadium in Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams supported the divisive proposal, with critics opposing the loss of public space to a private tournament. Instead, matches will be played at a proposed 34,000-seat modular stadium in Eisenhower Park, a purpose-built sports and events park about 30 miles east of Manhattan.

The venue will be the hottest ticket during the T20 World Cup when India and Pakistan face off in a rare contest. Given the intense political situation for the nuclear-armed neighbors, who have fought three wars against each other since becoming independent nations in 1947, they sadly rarely play each other in cricket.

Only in major events do they meet with administrators doing everything they can to milk this ridiculously hyped contest and rather predictably India and Pakistan have been scheduled to square off against each other in New York.

Given the destination, this should lift this money-spinner of a contest to new heights with previous contests over the past decade having been watched by a viewership of between 300 million to 500 million.

In a mega city that has hosted many of the world’s most famous events, the India-Pakistan clash – with so much at stake geopolitically and for the national psyche of both countries – will add to New York’s sporting lore.

Source link