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With giant screen, practice nets T20 World Cup sparks interest in global game of cricket in insular New York

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Shillong, June 6: In this insular metropolis (New York) where a “World Series” is just 30 local teams from two countries battling out in baseball, the T20 World Cup is setting off a spark of awareness of cricket, a game with 2.5 billion fans around the world.

 

 

TV news programmes explain the game using the metaphors of bowlers and pitchers, and sixers and home runs.

 

After 273 years since the first recorded match in America was played here in Manhattan, a large outdoor screen at the World Trade Center shows live the games played at 50 kilometres away at East Meadow stadium and across the West Indies and the US.

 

Nearby at practice nets, coaches and visitors try bowling and batting to get a feel for the sport.

 

Hundreds of New Yorkers and visitors to the World Trade Centre 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.

 

The crowds are expected to swell to thousands on Sunday for the relay of the India-Pakistan fixture and the other high-interest matches culminating in Barbados on June 29.

 

As the India-Ireland match at East Meadow on Wednesday was playing out on a giant screen for New Yorkers and visitors from around the world, 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 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, programme manager for the organisation.

 

“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 USD 78 million – USD 46 million in direct benefits and USD 32 million indirectly.

 

AEG said it arrived at the number by taking into account the ticket sales, direct attendee spending from domestic and overseas travellers, 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. (IANS)

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