Right time to take Cricket to US: Anurag Thakur

Amidst all the controversy surrounding the Lodha panel reforms and a mediocre Test series in the West Indies, some good news has emerged for the die-hard Indian cricket fan, particularly the one living on the other side of the globe, who now gets a maiden opportunity to see his/her favourite stars in flesh and blood.
In what history will remember as Indian cricket’s maiden entry into the United States of America, on August 27 and 28, India will play a two-match Twenty20 International series against the West Indies, who may struggle to match other teams in Tests and even One-Day Internationals, but are the reigning world champions in this format, in Florida.
Clearly, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has now woken up to the fact that there is a vast cricket market, comprising largely of the massive Indian diaspora in the US which remains unexplored till now. “America has round about 3.8 million Indians, and a huge number of Asians. Everyone there is passionate about cricket and they travel across the world to support and watch ‘Team India’,” Anurag Thakur, the BCCI president, told Times of India on Wednesday (August 3). “They connect to their roots through cricket and the BCCI thinks that this is the right time and opportunity to take cricket in that part of the world and make it popular.
“They follow the game online passionately .All these factors further prove that North America (USA and Canada) want to see
quality cricket.”
A venture like this would have made a few former Indian players hit the rewind button and reminisce about the events of 1989, when they were censured for playing in the US after a tour of the West Indies. The wheel has indeed turned a full circle.
“I think you have forgotten that in late 90s, the BCCI was the first board to try off shore venues with the Sahara Cup in Toronto and those matches were well-received and successful,” said Thakur. “In 2006, we played a series in Malaysia and also played cricket in Abu Dhabi and all of them were off shore venues.
“These kind of events have two direct benefits -1) The chance to explore new venues, new fans and new areas, and 2) It also promotes cricket in new countries. All this is good for the growth of the game.”
Obviously, the board was monitoring the response of the American public to the All-Stars series (comprising of retired cricketers) which was organised by cricket legends Sachin Tendulkar and Shane Warne in November last year. Florida has staged six games of the Caribbean Premier League (CPL) too. “The initiative by Sachin was very well-received in the US, and even organising the CPL met with good success there. So, all these are signs that the Americans want to see cricket, especially T20, which is similar to baseball, which we know is one of the most popular sports in that region,” felt Thakur.
The board, he revealed, will be more open than ever before for such off-shore ventures now. “We would definitely look at other countries, where cricket can be played and followed. Malaysia, Singapore, Canada and the UAE are always an option,” he said. “Lot of these things depend on the availability of the teams. I’m sure that like India, all the countries too feel that if cricket has to become a global sport, it has to reach new places and spread the game.
“Look what successful European soccer clubs like Bayern Munich and Manchester United do. They take their stars to new places and popularize the game. We are very sure that other countries would love to play against India in these new
off-shore venues.”

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