Now, you can get all the USA Cricket updates via Facebook. Also follow us on Twitter via @dreamcricket
By Tom Melville
Another international T20 series has been completed at Lauderhill and now with the crowds gone and the vuvuzelas packed away the question remains: What was accomplished?
Pic (Right): Sri Lanka supporters at the NZ vs SL T20 matches held at Lauderhill in 2010
If the primary purpose was to provide the American ex-pat cricket community with some high caliber cricket entertainment, the event was a great success—at least on a short term basis. Looking at things from the long term—bringing cricket to the attention of the American sporting public—it’s hard to conclude anything else than this venture fared as poorly as the one in 2010. American media attention was negligible, American attendance minimal, with no discernible post-event “buzz” so critical to feed and continue popular awareness of sports or anything else.
After four international matches it should be pretty clear the passive Lauderhill strategy—which goes something like, “If we just keep staging these matches sooner or later the Americans will come around to the game”—just isn’t working. The belief that all you have to do is shorten the game, hit a slew of balls into the stands, and Americans will come flocking to cricket has been exposed in all its naivety.
A much more aggressive, pro-active, approach is going to have to be seriously considered, one that specifically targets Americans , and one that will require a much more innovative, imaginative, and creative strategy in promoting the game than simply announcing dates, sending out press releases, and selling tickets, which has pretty much been the extent of past “promotions” for these matches.
Then there’s the matter of venue. Personally, I’d never consider staging an international cricket match at Lauderhill. Why? Because it simply reinforces cricket’s image with Americans as not being a big-time sport played by big-time athletes (cricket supporters may be outraged with this statement but anyone who’s worked directly with Americans at cricket will vouch for it).
Pic (Right): Crowds were sparse at Pearls Cup T20 in 2010
Now Lauderhill may be the finest cricket facility in North America and an impressive ground by New Zealand or the West Indies standards. But by American standards it’s comparable to maybe a AA baseball stadium, not exactly the stage I’d want to showcase the world’s top cricket teams and players.
Some years ago MLB was going to play an exhibition baseball game in England, one that was going to include the likes of Sammy Sosa and other major league players. Where were they going to hold the game (eventually rained out and never played)? Not on any baseball ground (through my guess is there are some pretty good baseball grounds in the UK) but at the Oval, a test match standard professional cricket ground. The MLB people clearly knew the image of their game was all important and that meant nothing less than playing at the country’s finest sporting facility. The cricket world does itself a great disservice to take any other approach in the United States.
The Lauderhill matches may have made things easier for CHA to attract investors to its planned American pro T20 league. But the savvy investor should want answers to two, and only two, questions: “Show me your strategy for connecting with the American sporting public” and “Convince me you know how to do this.”
Because if anyone thinks cricket in this country is going to reach the dimensions envisioned by CHA—a sport capable of generating millions in income--they’re going to have to find a way to generate not just a little, or some, American interest in cricket. They’ll need to generate a lot.
[Opinions expressed here are those of the author. Tom Melville is a member of the rare species of American-born cricketers and a historian and researcher. He is the author of The Tented Field: A History of Cricket in America and Early Baseball and the Rise of the National League.]