Cricket fans thrilled with USA team’s American-style victory over Canada

Ritu Jha-

USA Cricket’s World Cup win on Saturday, June 1, over Canada has excited South Asian fans and sparked new enthusiasm for the sport’s growth in America.

The USA Cricket team got off to a flying start in the Group A opening match of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2024 USA made 197/3 at the Grand Prairie Stadium in Dallas, Texas beating Canada with seven wickets and 14 balls remaining.

“We knew that we had the potential and I am glad that we lived up to it,” Atul Rai, former USA Cricket interim chairman, told indica of the team’s performance in its first international World Cup match.

The emphatic victory has charged up all the cricket fans in the U.S., which is co-hosting the tournament. Fans in the Indian American community, many of whom run leagues and cricket associations, were thrilled to watch the match and said that the team played an American style.

Lovekesh Kaila, co-owner of minor league team Dallas Mustangs and Mustangs Cricket Academy, attended the game with his friend and team co-owner, Syed Shahnawaz.

“This is yet another milestone for Dallas and USA cricket in general,” Shahnawaz said. “The large cricket community in the USA and my dream has always been to see a big stage for cricket in the USA and that has finally happened. I am positive that this is the beginning of bigger things to come.  The USA team stamped their authority in typical American fashion and announced their arrival to the world.”

Zain Jeewanjee agreed. Jeewanjee, an ardent cricket fan who owns 14 insurance companies, has purchased 78 tickets for his friends.

“What a game it was,” Jeewanjee said told indica. “ It once again provces America’s die-hard attitude and the will to win. They beat a formidable team.”

He is now looking with renewed hope at the 2028 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, USA.

“Los Angeles Olympics will have cricket in it. Now squash and cricket are going to figure in the Olympics,” Jeewanjee said. “ I want my children to play in the Olympics. It’s a fantastic opportunity for cricket because money will come into America. The other thing is the standard of the game will go higher.”

Jeewanjee says his insurance company has insured the ICC and some teams that played for T20. He plans to watch the Indian-Pak T20 clash with his pals.

“I’m a big fan and was part of the Willow TV when it was launched in 2000. I sponsored the first cricket telecast in the U.S. in 1989. I’m just a fan who spends money and sponsors the game.”

Although his roots are in South Asia, Jeewanjee was born in Kenya, with origins in Pakistan and India, and said that he’s been watching cricket since the ‘90s. He said his house in the San Francisco Bay Area used to be the hub for all Indians and Pakistanis to watch cricket matches.

Jeewanjee feels that this is just the beginning of a good run for the USA team in the T20 World Cup.

“Our team is very fortunate as they’ll be playing Pakistan soon. Pakistan doesn’t have the strongest team. Pakistan as a country is struggling right now in many ways and they’re just regrouping themselves. That is an opportunity for the U.S. I believe that the USA team could upset Pakistan in this T20 World Cup. Indians will occupy almost 60% to 80% of all the stadiums where matches will be played. But these Indians will be Americans and they’ll be favoring the USA team, not Pakistan. It’s going to be very interesting. This is going to be a fantastic World Cup in America. I hope they do well. More interest will be generated, and then, who knows, the Olympics will change the whole story.”

Cricket fans eagerly await a match on Sunday, June 9 in New York between traditional rivals India and Pakistan. Cricket aficionado Vijay Beniwal, owner of the Seattle Thunderbolts – an American professional Twenty20 franchise cricket team — said he planned to attend the match.

The Seattle Thunderbolts compete in Minor League Cricket (MiLC), after forming in 2021 with two other teams in the league. The franchise is owned by Seattle Sports LLC, as part of its cricket development program, owned by Vijay Beniwal, Phani Chitneni, and Salman Taj.

“It’s a matter of pride and passion for us, six of the players who are in USA and Canada teams are from Seattle Thunderbolts,” Beniwal said. “We had selected them for Seattle Thunderbolts even before they were picked for their respective national cricket teams.”

While the win against Canada was a morale booster for USA Cricket, Beniwal is keeping his sights trained on the forthcoming matches of the USA Cricket team. He also believes that more cricket-centric activities are needed to popularize the game in the US.

“All these players of USA Cricket are hungry to perform. I think the World Cup is a fantastic opportunity to show their hunger. They showed a high level of commitment and hunger to perform in the match with Canada because 192 is a big score and Canada has been practicing for over a year as a team.”

He said Canada had much more preparation for the match than the USA team, which had only played a few games against Bangladesh recently.

“They beat the Bangladesh team and they came here and beat Canada. It was mesmerizing to see the USA beat Canada. I’ve been a USA selector for four years. To see a USA team do this well gives immense satisfaction and hope. I think these victories are major milestones for US Cricket. It should tell all stakeholders that we should build more infrastructure, and coach our kids. If we create a good pool of local players here, the possibilities are limitless. That’s how soccer grew here 10-15 years ago.”

Beniwal said he’s happy that the World Cup came to America. More such exposure is needed to increase interest.

“But it is also true that more promotion can be done and that’s the USA Cricket Board’s responsibility,” he said. “ICC is doing a lot of heavy lifting, like marketing the game and the World Cup and making a stadium. Once USA Cricket becomes strong too, then the reach and popularity of the game will increase.”

Beniwal said USA Cricket must find a way to generate its own revenue.

“The board can’t keep asking for funding from ICC which doesn’t fund anyone for that matter,” he said. “I have been involved in USA Cricket for over 25 years, but this financial hurdle has remained as tall as Day One. No organization, like FIFA or the ICC, continuously funds any board. That model will never work. The USA board has to sort this out.”



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