Thursday, June 13, 2024

Cricket’s trying to crack America! Again! Read our helpful 2024 T20 World Cup explainer to know all!

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It’s 2024. Do you know where your T20 World Cup is?

Yuvraj Singh is too cool for socks at an event at the Miami Grand Prix where they got him to pose with a bunch of sports trophies – among them the T20 World Cup one. Sweet synergy, Batman!  Getty Images

Where do you go after an IPL in which the run-scoring feats were enough to induce a heart attack (especially if you’re a bowler)? To the land where excess consumption is the norm, of course! As part of cricket’s insatiable desire for more, more, more, the ICC has followed the trail of dollar bills and is now preparing to stage the 2024 T20 World Cup in the USA! USA! USA! (and the Caribbean). Time to grab yourself a large tub of extra buttery popcorn and get stuck into our supersized explainer…

Cricket in America? What with the who now?
Yessiree Bob! Grab your cowboy hat and put on those Bart Simpson underpants, because cricket is coming stateside, baby. Having taken note of how football used the springboard of USA ’94 to become one of the most widely played sports in that country, cricket’s powerbrokers have opted to do the same a whole 30 years later, which is pretty on-brand.

So they’re hosting an entire World Cup in a country with next to no interest in cricket?
Well, not the entire tournament. We might have got a bit overexcited when referring to it as the 2024 T20 World Cup in the USA! USA! USA! (and the Caribbean). In reality, it’s more like the 2024 T20 World Cup in the Caribbean (and a little itty bit of the USA). But they are genuinely playing games on American soil.

Hmm. Are there even any turf pitches in the US?
As a matter of fact, there are several. Three grounds, in New York, Texas and Florida, will stage 16 games over the course of the tournament – although the semi-finals and final will be held in the West Indies.

Does anyone genuinely think cricket can appeal to an American audience?
Let’s be optimistic. The game’s biggest superstar, Virat Kohli, has spent a career picking fights with people in many corners of the world, which the US as a nation should find familiar. England are big fans of freedom, as long as it’s for their batters (and no one else more generally). And the Namibia team are known as “the Eagles”, which is the only kind of wildlife Americans will refrain from immediately shooting and mounting on a wall. Don’t tell us there’s no potential.

Wait, they’re going to be playing cricket in the Big Apple – home of Jay-Z, Martin Scorsese and the famous MI New York?
Let me preface this answer by reminding you that New York is both the name of the city and the state. So yes, Nassau County on Long Island in the state of New York is hosting eight games. Eisenhower Park, location of a 34,000-seater pop-up stadium, will be the venue for three India matches – including their group game against Pakistan on June 9.

Sounds like they’ve hastily constructed an international sports facility in a suburban park…
Pretty much. Call it the Field of Dreams approach (without the ghosts playing baseball).

Okay, so it’s not quite the Narendra Modi Stadium, and who knows how the pitch – a drop-in surface transported up from Florida – will play, but like a batting allrounder coming on to bowl the 13th over, it should do a job.

They’ve built it, but will the people come?
They certainly will for the India vs Pakistan game, which is approaching a sellout – even with some tickets costing up to US$300 a pop. Whether Canada vs Ireland is quite such a draw remains to be seen.

Sorry, Canada…?
Oh yes, this T20 World Cup is all about being bigger, better and more calorific than ever before. There will be 20 teams involved in the 2024 edition, including nine Associate nations – and T20 World Cup debuts for Canada, Uganda and the co-hosts, USA.

Here’s a picture of Usain Bolt looking all moody (and a bit Lance Gibbsian even – cricket connection, see?) against a moody sky at Eisenhower Park, the New York venue for the T20 World Cup  J Conrad Williams Jr / Getty Images

Sounds like more woke nonsense. Next you’ll be telling me we can’t call them “minnows”, hahaha!
That’s exactly what we’re saying. Also, call them left-arm wristspinners, not that other word we used to use to describe those bowlers.

Hmmm, okay. But all these smaller teams, like Ireland, Oman and Sri Lanka – they’re still made to go through a first round that is essentially another qualifier, so only the worthiest get to play the big boys, right?
That used to be the system, true. But this expanded format will see all the teams thrown in together like some big, bare-bottomed hippy commune that subsists on peace, love and sweet, sweet broadcasting cashola. From four groups of five, the top two in each group will progress to the Super 8s (which actually consists of two groups of four). From there, the top two qualify for the semi-finals. Capisce?

But last time they did something similar for a World Cup in the Caribbean, India were knocked out in the first group stage…
If that happens again, the Wall Street bull will shed real tears, and future tournaments will likely be rejigged to align with that most fundamental value of modern cricket: maximum amount of India airtime.

Look, I just want to see the best playing the best. Is that such a bad thing?
We hear you. The World Cup is the pinnacle (outside of the IPL) and where cricket makes all its TV rights money (outside of the IPL). But oh look, India have once again been drawn in the same group as Pakistan – crazy how it keeps happening! – who they always beat at ICC events, alongside Ireland, Canada and USA. What could possibly go wrong?

I’m glad we’re on the same wavelength. Now tell me about this impact substitute rule that’s made boring old T20s exciting again.
Ah, see. You’re back to thinking about the IPL. No such frivolities in international T20 – at least until the BCCI politely asks all the other boards to implement the rule, if they wouldn’t mind, thank you ever so much. But this T20 World Cup will, for the first time, feature a stop clock to help keep games moving.

Oh wow. You mean like the thing that they have on Countdown?
Yeah, sort of. Actually, it would be fun if they played that tune in the stadium as fielding teams got close to the cut-off.

Presumably this is to ensure they can fit in an extra strategic timeout or two?
You’ve been watching too much franchise T20.

Is there anything else to watch?
Fair point.

Okay, can I go now?
One more thing: look out for the mad start times. Some games begin as early as 10.30am local, and others as late as 8.30pm local. Why? So that South Asian viewers can tune in before they go to work, or after they return. Don’t ever act like the game’s stewards don’t care about you. Unless you live in another time zone, in which case, hahaha, have fun.

(By the way, there’s always ESPNcricinfo’s ball-by-ball coverage, live reports, and massively helpful explainers like this one. We need eyeballs too, you communists.)

Alan Gardner is a deputy editor and Andrew Fidel Fernando is a senior writer at ESPNcricinfo

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