Major League Cricket

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Major League Cricket
CountriesUnited States
AdministratorAmerican Cricket Enterprises
FormatTwenty20
First edition2023
Next edition2024
Tournament formatRound-robin and playoffs
Number of teams6
Current championMI New York
(1st title)
Most successfulMI New York
(1 title)
Most runsNicholas Pooran (388)
Most wicketsTrent Boult (22)
TVList of broadcasters
Websitemajorleaguecricket.com

Major League Cricket (MLC) is a professional Twenty20 cricket league in the United States. Operated by American Cricket Enterprises (ACE) and sanctioned by USA Cricket, it began play on July 13, 2023, with six teams representing major US cities under a single-entity model.[1] The first season took place over three weeks at Grand Prairie Stadium in Grand Prairie, Texas, and Church Street Park in Morrisville, North Carolina, concluding on July 30, 2023.[2][3] In 2021, the development league for MLC, Minor League Cricket (MiLC), completed its inaugural season, which was contested by 27 franchise-based teams.[4]

History[edit]

There have been various attempts to hold a Twenty20 (T20) cricket league in the United States, such as the short-lived Pro Cricket (which played a single season in 2004),[5] and the American Premier League, a proposed league in partnership between the United States of America Cricket Association (USACA) and New Zealand Cricket, modelled after domestic T20 competitions. However, it has yet to properly launch in the United States as of February 2024.

2018–2021[edit]

In November 2018, USA Cricket announced that it was seeking partners to establish a domestic T20 league in the country by 2021, with goals to "engage existing fans and grow new ones", and spur "sustainable development of cricketing infrastructure across the United States".[5] In May 2019, USA Cricket accepted a bid by American Cricket Enterprises (ACE) for a US$1 billion investment, covering the league and other investments benefitting the US national teams. Its partners include Satyan Gajwani and Vineet Jain of The Times Group, and Willow TV founders Sameer Mehta and Vijay Srinivasan.[6][7] As part of the agreement, ACE also handles commercial activities for T20I and ODI matches hosted by the United States.[8]

In January 2019, USA Cricket was approved as the new governing board for cricket in USA,[9] replacing the USACA, which had been expelled from the International Cricket Council in September 2017 due to governance issues.[10] The new body set a goal for cricket to reach wider, mainstream popularity in the country, where it has typically been considered a niche international sport.[11][12]

In an annual general meeting on February 21, 2020, it was stated that USA Cricket planned to launch Major League Cricket in 2021, and a 22-team development league known as Minor League Cricket that summer as a prelude.[13] Minor League Cricket was officially announced the following week, with plans to host a nine-week, 170-game season beginning July 4;[14] however, it was postponed to 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States.[15][16]

In October 2020, USA Cricket reaffirmed plans to launch Major League Cricket in 2022 as part of its "foundational plan" for 2020–23.[17] On December 1, 2020, it was announced that the IPL's Kolkata Knight Riders (co-owned by Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan) would invest in ACE.[18][19]

In February 2021, MLC announced plans for Minor League Cricket Youth and Major League Cricket Youth leagues, which would, alongside a MLC Jr. Championship and player development program, serve as a development system for younger players to progress towards Major League Cricket and the national team.[20] In May 2021, the launch of Major League Cricket was delayed to 2023 due to COVID-19 and to provide additional time to develop facilities.[21]

2022[edit]

In May 2022, Major League Cricket announced it had acquired funds of US$120 million as part of its Series A and A1 fundraising rounds.[22] Investors committing to MLC featured the likes of Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, Ross Perot Jr., Anand Rajaraman, Shantanu Narayen and more.[23] MLC plans to use these funds to mainly build stadiums and first-class facilities in the hopes of accelerating cricket's development across the United States.[24][25]

In June 2022, MLC announced the inaugural season of Minor League Cricket Youth (MiLC Youth).[26] The inaugural season of MiLC Youth was announced to be contested between 11 teams at the Prairie View Cricket Complex in Houston starting July 25, 2022.[27] The finals for the inaugural season took place on July 29 at between the Dallas Mustangs and the New Jersey Stallions,[28] in which the Stallions beat the Mustangs by two wickets.[29]

In November 2022, it was announced the first season of MLC will be staged from July 13–30, 2023, at Grand Prairie Stadium. The tournament will be played in a single round-robin format with 15 league matches played among six franchises before a four-match play-off phase. MLC also hopes to play matches in a to-be-constructed stadium in Los Angeles, and Church Street Park in Morrisville, North Carolina.[30]

2023[edit]

In February 2023, it was announced that the player draft for the league's inaugural season would be held on March 19, 2023.[31]

The inaugural player draft was held on March 19, 2023, at the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston.[32] The draft was conducted over 9 rounds via a serpentine system, where the team order is reversed every round.[33] Out of the 9 rounds, 8 were general draft picks, with the final round being exclusively for U-23 players.[34] Each of the six teams had a purse of over $1 million, with $800,000 for overseas players and $300,000 for US-based players.[35] The draft had a fixed salary cap with a maximum of $75,000 (first round) and a minimum of $2,500 (ninth round).[36] Overseas signings were directly signed and were not part of the draft.[37] Each franchise must have a minimum of fifteen players, with the maximum being eighteen. Out of these eighteen players, a maximum of nine can be overseas players.[38]

Following the draft, it was reported that USAC had not yet sanctioned either Major or Minor League Cricket for the 2023 season, with the ICC stating that its members should not issue No Objection Certificates (NOCs) to release players to participate at this time. Interim chairman of the board Atul Rai citing unspecified concerns and outstanding issues over how ACE is administering the competitions, including wanting to seek a more "favorable" short-term agreement. MLC director Justin Geale stated that the sanctioning applications were with USA Cricket", and that "the recent staffing changes at USA Cricket may have contributed to any delays.[39] In April 2023, the league was officially sanctioned by the ICC, removing a significant obstacle to the league launching in July.[40] Play began on July 13, 2023.[41]

2024[edit]

In December 2023, it was announced that the second season of the tournament would begin on July 4, 2024, just four days after the conclusion of the 2024 ICC Men's T20 World Cup.[42] It was also reported that the matches would be played in Grand Prairie Stadium along with other venues.[43]

Teams[edit]

MLC began with six teams and uses a single-entity structure under which all teams are owned by ACE, with investor-operators (who have invested in the company) assigned to each team.[44] It hopes to expand to ten teams in the future.[45]

USA Cricket's CEO Iain Higgins identified Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, New Jersey, New York, and San Francisco as markets where the sport was most popular.[19] The league's six inaugural teams will be in Dallas, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, D.C.[46]

List of current teams[edit]

Major League Cricket teams
Team City Stadium (2024) Capacity Founded Captain Coach Owners
Los Angeles Knight Riders[47] Irvine, California Great Park Cricket Stadium (planned)[48] 10,000 (planned) 2023 Sunil Narine Phil Simmons Knight Riders Group[49]
MI New York[50] Brooklyn, New York City, New York Marine Park Cricket Stadium (planned)[51] 10,000 (planned) 2023 Kieron Pollard[52] Robin Peterson[52] Indiawin Sports[53]
San Francisco Unicorns[54] San Jose, California Santa Clara County Fairgrounds Stadium (planned)[55] 15,000 (planned) 2023 Aaron Finch[56] Shane Watson Anand Rajaraman[57]
Venky Harinarayan[58]
Seattle Orcas[59] Redmond, Washington Marymoor Cricket Community Park (planned)[60] 6,000 (planned) 2023 Wayne Parnell Pravin Amre GMR Group[61]
Satya Nadella[62][a] S. Somasegar[64]
Texas Super Kings[65] Grand Prairie, Texas Grand Prairie Stadium 15,000 2023 Faf du Plessis Stephen Fleming[66] Chennai Super Kings[53]
Anurag Jain[67]
Ross Perot Jr.[68]
Washington Freedom[69] Washington, D.C. George Mason Cricket Stadium (planned)[70] 12,000 (planned) 2023 Moises Henriques Ricky Ponting[71] Sanjay Govil[72][b]

Tournament season and results[edit]

MLC season winner
Season Final No. of teams Player of the series
Venue Winner Result Runners-up
2023 Grand Prairie Stadium, Texas MI New York
184/3 (16 overs)
MI New York won by 7 wickets
Scorecard
Seattle Orcas
183/9 (20 overs)
6 Nicholas Pooran
(MI New York)

Venues[edit]

On November 18, 2020, it was announced that ACE would lease AirHogs Stadium in Grand Prairie, Texas—home of the former Texas AirHogs independent baseball team—and convert it to a cricket-specific facility that will host a Grand Prairie-based team in Major League Cricket.[73][74]

In March 2022, ACE discussed plans to invest $110 million in eight newly constructed or renovated venues for the league and possible hosting of matches during the 2024 ICC Men's T20 World Cup (which the United States is co-hosting with the West Indies), including the aforementioned Grand Prairie Stadium, Church Street Park in Morrisville, Moosa Stadium in Pearland, Prairie View Cricket Complex in Prairie View, and new sites in Orange County (backed by the Knight Riders), the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds, and Marymoor Park in Redmond, Washington. The renovated venues have a budget of approximately $3 million each, while the three new west coast venues have a budget of $30 million each; ACE stated that the west coast venues would be completed by 2024, and will have a projected capacity of 10,000–20,000.[75][76] As of November 2022, it was reported that work on the other proposed pitches had not yet commenced.[30]

In February 2023, it was reported that most of the 2023 matches were set to be played in Grand Prairie, with Church Street Park set to be used as a secondary venue.[30][77] Due to the summer heat in Texas, it was reported by ESPNcricinfo that most matches would be scheduled as night games, rather than scheduled in the daytime hours to attract audiences in markets such as India.[30] With the announcement of the 2023 schedule, it was confirmed that a portion of the group stage will be played at Church Street Park; due to a curfew on the use of floodlights, these matches will begin in the early evening.[78]

Broadcasters[edit]

In the United States, MLC games are broadcast by Willow, with selected matches also being carried by CBS Sports Network, and over-the-top television service Sling TV also streaming matches as part of a sponsorship agreement.[79]

International providers include TNT Sports (formerly BT Sport) in the United Kingdom, Sports18 in India, Fox Cricket in Australia, and Sky Sport in New Zealand.[80]

Minor League Cricket[edit]

Minor League Cricket is a developmental league for Major League Cricket that completed its inaugural season in 2021.[16] It consists of 26 franchise-based teams in four regional divisions.[81] Unlike Major League Cricket, Minor League Cricket uses privately owned franchises.[44]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Although there are numerous other investors backing the team (such as Soma Somasegar and Sanjay Parthasarathy), Nadella and the GMR Group are the team's main stakeholders and investors.[63]
  2. ^ Although Govil has launched a strategic partnership with Cricket NSW, it is understood that there is no ownership element in the deal.[72]

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External links[edit]