India v Pakistan helps cricket's American dream gather pace

Media caption,

India beat Pakistan in tight World Cup thriller

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New York is the concrete jungle where dreams are made. There really is nothing you can’t do.

After a dazzling, dramatic and pulsating match between India and Pakistan that even includes, it seems, co-hosting a T20 World Cup.

This was the match. Not just any match, but THE match on which the success of the US leg of this jamboree effectively hung.

The International Cricket Council will be happy their American dream has become a reality even if the rain, at one point, threatened to make it a damp squib.

Fans got drenched before play started but most were not in the slightest bit bothered by the lack of cover in the open stands.

“Who cares about the weather? I’m going to see Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma and Jasprit Bumrah!” Arjun, who lives in New Jersey, excitedly said after the showers relented.

He was one of 34,028 who packed into a pop-up stadium, built at a cost of $32m. Regardless of whether this event turns a profit cricket’s reawakening in the US looks set to gather pace.

The desire to be at a India v Pakistan match was such that it could have been sold out several times over.

Citi Field, the home of New York Mets baseball team, was opened for fans unable to get in Nassau County International Cricket Stadium to watch a game on the big screen.

No charge, but the MLB marketing men are not soft. Just as the ICC want its piece of the American pie, cricket’s cousin is desperate to grab its slice of the South Asian market.

“The ticket prices were a little steep for this game but I guess it’s supply versus demand,” said Irfan, a Pakistan fan, who had done an overnight drive from Toronto to make the fixture.

He was one of the few who got lucky in the ballot. Others paid up to $2,000 (approx £1,571) on resale platforms, although prices dropped considerably as the game edged closer.

The devotion of the South Asian diaspora in the United States to playing, attending and watching cricket matches in the US is what can sustain it.

Hafeez, a Pakistan fan from Coventry, sat with his five-month baby in a pram on the steps of the stand as he watched the action unfold in the middle having won tickets in a competition.

“You can see from the passion of the fans what cricket means,” he said.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,

More than 34,000 were at the game in New York, making it the best attended game of the tournament so far

For the first time at this pop-up stadium in Eisenhower Park the plastic wrapping was also taken off the comfy seats in the corporate sections which were barely used for earlier games.

Cricket royalty was bussed in for the day. Sachin Tendulkar was mobbed, Bollywood stars hob-nobbed. Noble-prize winning activist Malala Yousafzai cheered on Pakistan.

Chris Gayle, who wore a dazzling all-white suit with one sleeve orange and green for India and the other green for Pakistan, strolled about the outfield with a huge grin on his face. He was even asking the players to sign it.

It was brash, over-bearing and full of razzamatazz. Even ringmaster Ravi Shastri's act at the toss was cranked up a few more notches.

There is an appeal for the players of India and Pakistan being here, too. Not just in terms of growing their own brands stateside.

Kohli and his Bollywood superstar wife Anushka Sharma were able to slip out for coffee in New York the past few days – almost unthinkable back home.

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T20 World Cup: India and Pakistan fans at New York Mets fan zone

Security was extremely tight. Sniffer dogs, bomb disposal experts, military-style armoured vehicles, helicopters circling the ground, surveillance teams and members from every branch of police imaginable. Even covert snipers in place.

“The Super Bowl on steroids” was how Nassau County executive Bruce Blakeman, one of the key men in bringing this even to New York, described the security preparations for the event.

Everything's bigger in the US, after all.

So where from here? Major League Cricket will fill the breach given the cast of stellar names on their books, with this year’s edition set to start a matter of days after the World Cup ends.

A delegation from the International Olympic Committee have been in town in recent days checking out the pop-up stadium in New York and meeting various stakeholders.

You can bet your bottom dollar India v Pakistan at Los Angeles 2028 is firmly in their sights.

It will be a case of watch this space to see what happens on US soil between now and then.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,

Crowds of people gathered at the Oculus building in lower Manhattan and at the Citi Stadium in Queens to watch the game on big screens

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