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By Peter Della Penna
up in New Zealand and Sri Lanka, many of the players who are currently
part of their country’s national teams would have dreamed of playing
cricket in all sorts of far off destinations. The Melbourne Cricket
Ground, Newlands, Eden Gardens and Lord’s are just some of the grounds
that players like Kumar Sangakkara and Ross Taylor would have played
imaginary game after game in, scoring century after century.
Pic (Right): USACA CEO Don
Lockerbie, Black Caps captain Daniel Vettori and Lauderhill Mayor
Richard Kaplan at the press conference on Thursday
However, it’s doubtful that any of these players ever thought they
would one day play a competitive fixture in the United States of
America. But that will be the case on Saturday when The Pearls Cup
commences at the Central Broward Regional Park in Lauderhill, Florida,
as New Zealand and Sri Lanka create history by becoming the first ICC
Full-Member nations to play an international match on American soil.
“There was a lot of talk from the ICC and various other cricket
authorities trying to break into the US market and trying to introduce
cricket here,” said Kumar Sangakkara, captain of Sri Lanka, on Thursday
afternoon before his squad took to the stadium outfield for training.
“This has been a first time experience for me. I’ve loved every minute
of it. Florida’s a great place to come to and I believe play sport or
just live so it’s been a great experience for everyone in the team to
be a part of this.”
of the main goals of this initiative is to bring greater awareness to
the game. New Zealand batsman Ross Taylor knows it won’t happen
overnight, but believes that every little bit of exposure helps and
that within a few years time, positive results will be achieved from
getting more people to see and learn about the game in an untapped
American market that exists both within and beyond expat communities.
Pic (Left): Sri Lanka captain Kumar Sangakkara receives a gift
on behalf of USACA from Ahmed Jeddy, USACA Central West Board Member
“Well I guess there’s a lot of expats here in America,” said Taylor.
“There’s a lot of Indians and Pakistanis who all love and follow
cricket so hopefully we can give them something that they’ve probably
been missing for the whole time they’ve been here in the States. But
not only that, people we talk to don’t know a lot about cricket and
hopefully if we can come over here and… we don’t expect to convert
millions and millions of people, but if we can get a few people to
start watching cricket, you never know. In four or five years time
hopefully the profile of the game is a lot better than it is at the
“We’re gonna try and put on a good show first and foremost, try and
captivate some uncertain audiences at the moment, try and captivate
them, try and express to them what cricket’s about and show them a game
that we all fell in love with,” said New Zealand batsman Brendon
McCullum. “Hopefully we can get some fans who will support us from afar
and who may even try and increase the numbers of people who are playing
cricket here in the States. One day I envision, one day is to have
cricket as big as what baseball is over here. It’s a lofty dream, but
it’s gotta start somewhere so hopefully this weekend will hopefully be
a long way to beginning that.”
Interview at Training with Brendon McCullum from Peter Della Penna on Vimeo.
Aside from the cricket, the players have been acclimatizing themselves
to better known American sporting pursuits. New Zealand took part in
batting practice with the Florida Marlins at Sun Life Stadium in Miami
on Monday night. During training on Thursday, Taylor could be seen
tossing around a pigskin football with several of his Kiwi mates.
Meanwhile, McCullum hasn’t wasted any opportunities hitting the links
with the amount of off time the team has had since their exit from the
ICC World Twenty20.
“I’ve played about six games of golf since I’ve been here so I’ve been pretty busy on the golf course so far,” said McCullum.
One sign that cricket is acclimatizing itself to fall in line with
those better known American sporting pursuits is the fact that ESPN
will be broadcasting The Pearls Cup. Not only will it be aired live on
the international family of ESPN networks such as ESPN Star Sports in
India, but more significantly in America on broadband channel ESPN3.
“If we have ESPN covering this tournament, then obviously a lot of
people will be watching this, a lot of Americans,” said Ahmed Jeddy,
USACA’s Central West Regional Representative on the Board of Directors.
“The local Americans, not the expat Americans but the local Americans
would watch this and that can help us give them the lead that this is
the sport that you need to start bringing into your mainstream so we
can develop youth of America to play cricket and Twenty20 is a great
platform for that.”
Interview at Training with Kumar Sangakkara from Peter Della Penna on Vimeo.
However, one of the major concerns of this event is whether or not it
will make any money for the parties involved. Previously, New Zealand
Cricket CEO Justin Vaughan has said that he does not anticipate the
event making a profit in its first year but was not overly concerned
about it because he hopes to maintain a long term partnership with
USACA. Nabeel Ahmed, USACA’s 1st Vice President, had a similar
assessment on Thursday.
“I think eventually we are looking forward to make this thing a
money-making thing,” said Ahmed, “but to begin with, we wanted to bring
something to a US cricket community which is the international game of
USACA CEO Don Lockerbie remained optimistic on filling up the stadium
for The Pearls Cup Twenty20 fixtures and in an interview published
Thursday on blackcaps.co.nz, he stated that 5,000-8,000 people each day
would be a good crowd. According to the event organizers, ticket sales
have been picking up as the event has drawn nearer. It is also hoped
that walk-up sales at the stadium box office by the local West Indian
community on the day of the matches will help boost attendance figures.
For the people who are willing to make the effort to travel near or far
to see The Pearls Cup in person, they will be part of a truly historic
event, one that will hopefully be remembered for a long time. New
Zealand all-rounder Jacob Oram is excited to be a part of the occasion.
“I’m quite happy and quite proud to be part of the first series which
will hopefully be the first stepping stone in helping cricket become a
bigger sport in America,” said Oram.
Pearls Cup Interview with Nabeel Ahmed from Peter Della Penna on Vimeo.
Pearls Cup Interview with Ahmed Jeddy from Peter Della Penna on Vimeo.
Sri Lanka Pearls Cup Press Conference with Kumar Sangakkara from Peter Della Penna on Vimeo.
New Zealand Pearls Cup Press Conference with Daniel Vettori from Peter Della Penna on Vimeo.
Interview at Training with Jacob Oram from Peter Della Penna on Vimeo.
Interview at Training with Ross Taylor from Peter Della Penna on Vimeo.
Interview at Training with Tillakeratne Dilshan from Peter Della Penna on Vimeo.