Trinidian cricketer Andre Russell blows a kiss at the sky after scoring a fifty at MLC’s debut game.
Russell is an allrounder, specifically a right hand batsman and right arm fast bowler.
Vedant Sapra | Mercury Staff

Cricket, a beloved sport in South Asia, the UK and the Caribbean, has struggled to gain mainstream attention in the United States. But the creation of Major League Cricket and the multiple franchises involved with it could change that. With its tournament-style format and a focus on Twenty20 cricket, MLC aims to be the turning point for cricket’s growth in the U.S.

The MLC kickstarted its inaugural season in Grand Prairie, Texas on July 13 with a match between the Texas Super Kings and the LA Knight Riders. An estimated 7,000 people showed up to this first game, a promising start for the young league.

This isn’t the first attempt to introduce cricket to the U.S., though. Previous efforts, like the American Premier League, were short-lived and couldn’t sustain the momentum, playing just one season between 2009 and 2021. The MLC seeks to grow steadily and consistently by organizing an inaugural season lasting just over two weeks, focusing on a digestible three-hour long T20 game format. Being based in Dallas-Fort Worth helps too, as the metroplex houses one of the country’s largest airports and has year-round cricket-friendly weather. Additionally, $20 million was poured into renovating the Grand Prairie Stadium – once the AirHog baseball stadium – into what it is today.

International franchises involved with the MLC include the Knight Riders Group, the Mumbai Indians, the Cricket Victoria, the GMR Group, the Chennai Super Kings and Cricket New South Wales. Prominent figures such Ross Perot Jr. and Indian movie stars Shah Rukh Khan and Juhi Chawla own franchises partnered with the MLC, bringing power and influence to the league. For accounting junior Ali Sheikh, a professional cricketer for the LA Knight Riders, this period in American cricket history is the culmination of his passion for the sport.

“My friends at UTD didn’t really know what cricket was, neither did my friends in my high school,” Sheikh said. “The game has grown, though, in the last few years. There’s a lot of support from the Asian community and there’s excitement with the big names who have traveled from across the world to play in this league.”

Cricket originated in the UK and has become a favorite pastime in countries such as India, Bangladesh and Pakistan after it was spread in the time of the British empire. T20 cricket, which gained popularity after its introduction by the England and Wales Cricket Board in 2003, offers a shorter, more action-packed version of the traditional game. In T20 cricket, the game is limited to 20 overs per inning, and matches take approximately three hours, making it an ideal fit for American audiences. This game format is already played in American club cricket, while traditional formats like test cricket – the original form with overs that are typically played over five days – and one-day cricket – which is limited to 50 overs per inning – are becoming less widespread in international professional leagues.

Outside of the consumable format, Sheikh said a large part of the MLC’s inaugural success can be attributed to big names taking part in this first season. International stars such as Trinidadian cricketer Dwayne Bravo and Jamaican cricketer Andre Russell – who’s on the same team as Sheikh – attracted fans to stadiums. The first game held in Grand Prairie’s 7,200-capacity stadium was completely sold out.

“With the number of guys that are moving here that have international experience, cricket is only going to become bigger,” Sheikh said. “More money’s going to be invested. New players – stay motivated, stay persistent, and you can achieve anything you want from the sport. Continue to work hard and you can make a good living out of it.”

Olawaseun Adeyemi | Mercury Staff

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