Wed | Nov 25, 2015

US city aims to become cricket centre

Published:Friday | July 5, 2013 | 7:00 AM


The Midwestern American city best known for one of the world's highest profile auto races is preparing for a proper game of cricket - the sport most Americans know only from British films.

Indianapolis is spending $6 million to equip one of its parks with a premier cricket field, known as a pitch, and space for Gaelic football, rugby, hurling and other sports mainly popular overseas.

Mayor Greg Ballard hopes his World Sports Park project brings international exposure and helps local companies attract talented overseas workers by offering them a home for their favourite games.

"These are global sports and they'll give us more visibility in the global marketplace," he said.

Cities across the US are jockeying for any advantage to boost economic development, and sports is an easy target. Professional sports teams pump millions into local economies in the cities that host them.

'How do you sell it'

But can a sport that most Americans are unfamiliar with have the same payoff? "It's a gamble", said Bob Dorfman, a sports marketing expert at San Francisco's Baker Street Advertising.

"How do you sell it to a public who really doesn't understand it? To me, cricket is a fairly mystifying sport," Dorfman said.

The mayor isn't daunted. Indianapolis has already signed a three-year deal to host a US amateur cricket tournament and championship, starting in August 2014.

"When people around the world think of cricket, I want them to think of Indianapolis," he told media in India during a trade visit in April.

Some local politicians have criticised Ballard for the project at a time when the city faces a $50 million budget deficit.

Cricket supporters insist Ballard's vision can become a reality.

Darren Beazley, the chief executive of the United States of America Cricket Association, said there are currently 50 cricket leagues with 1,108 teams in the US and that about 30,000 Americans - mostly immigrants from former British colonies - play cricket, which he said is the world's second-most popular sport after football.