Usain Bolt Helps Build Excitement For 2024 ICC T20 Cricket World Cup - 9 minutes read

Usain Bolt, Sir Curtly Ambrose, Shoaib Malik, Liam Plunkett, Corey Anderson, Monank Patel, Victor ... [+] Cruz, Bartolo Colon, Elena Delle Donne, John Starks and Ibtihaj Muhammad help unveil the Nassau County International Cricket Stadium.Courtesy of ICC

On Wednesday, May 15th, Olympic gold medalist Usain Bolt, cricket legends Sir Curtly Ambrose and Shoaib Malik, U.S. cricketers Monank Patel and Corey Anderson, and other prominent athletes were in Nassau County, NY to see the unveiling of the new Nassau County International Cricket Stadium. The stadium is one of three U.S. venues that will be used to host this summer’s International Cricket Council T20 Cricket World Cup.

Bolt, a native of Jamaica and an aspiring cricketer in his youth, is serving as an ambassador for the upcoming T20 World Cup. As part of his role, the Olympian is helping drum up fan interest in the U.S. He already made a cameo in the tournament’s official anthem video, Out of this World, alongside artists Sean Paul and Kes. The former sprinter has promised to attend many of the matches taking place in the West Indies, and says “Anyway I can help, I will.”

Speaking to me on the way to the Nassau County International Cricket Stadium, Bolt said that it was “good to be in the States,” and that he was “happy to be an ambassador.” Bolt’s enthusiasm for cricket stems from his upbringing in Jamaica where cricket is part of the country’s national identity, largely because of its colonial ties to the United Kingdom. He admits he dreamed of playing cricket professionally, calling it his first love, but never had the chance because “I was faster than I was a good cricketer.” Despite his glittering career in track and field, which saw him win gold medals in three consecutive Summer Games (2008, 2012, and 2016), Bolt is thrilled to be promoting the sport he grew up adoring. He says he wants to “help push it, and be part of something bigger and greater.”

The 2024 ICC T20 Cricket World Cup

The 2024 edition of the T20 World Cup will be co-hosted by the U.S. and the West Indies (the Caribbean). It will be played between June 1 and June 29, with the opening match between the U.S. and Canada taking place at Grand Prairie Stadium outside Dallas, Texas.

This will be the first T20 World Cup to feature twenty teams, up from sixteen in the last edition. Alongside the two hosts, the U.S. and the West Indies, the top eight teams from the 2022 edition of the tournament and the next two highest teams in the ICC T20 Team Rankings will be competing. Additionally, eight other nations made the cut through regional qualifying rounds, with Canada and Uganda reaching the World Cup for the first time in their histories.

England is the defending champion, having beaten Pakistan in the final of the 2022 World Cup in Australia. However, according to the ICC Rankings, India is the favorite to win, entering the tournament as number one in the world, followed by Australia and then England.

Tournament Format and Host Venues

The tournament is made up of four groups of five teams with the top two teams in each group qualifying for the Super 8s. The group stage, forty of the fifty-five games, will take place between June 1 and June 17 with at least one game each day. The Super 8s will be played entirely in the Caribbean and will consist of two groups of four, with the top two of each group making the semi-finals. The Super 8s will last from June 19 to June 24. The semi-finals and final will take place on June 26, June 27 and June 29 respectively and are single-elimination games.

In the U.S. there will be three host venues: Broward County International Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, Grand Prairie Stadium in Texas, and Nassau County International Cricket Stadium in New York. Texas and Florida will each host four matches, while New York will host eight, including the hotly anticipated group-stage matches between India and Pakistan and India and the U.S.

Thirty-nine of the matches will be played across six different venues in the Caribbean. Powerhouses England and Australia will play their group-stage games between Barbados, Antigua and Saint Lucia. The semi-finals will be played in Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago, with the final of the World Cup taking place on June 29 at Kensington Oval in Bridgetown, Barbados.

Nassau County International Cricket Stadium

The Nassau County International Cricket Stadium which Usain Bolt and co. helped unveil on Wednesday, May 15th, was expressly built for this summer’s T20 World Cup. It is a modular, temporary stadium with a capacity of 34,000, and it will host eight World Cup matches including all of India’s group-stage games. The first match in New York will be between 2014 champions Sri Lanka and South Africa on June 3.

Construction on the stadium began in January of this year and was completed in just under five full months. The venue, which boasts views of the Manhattan skyline from its East and West stands, is using world-class Tahoma 31 Bermuda grass nurtured in Florida for the all-important playing surface. The grass was transported over 1000 miles to New York and installed by crane in preparation for the tournament.

For visitors seeking the full hospitality matchday experience, there are pavilions on the north and south ends of the venue. The north pavilion has newly introduced Cabana seats and is home to the Corner Clubs which has a private party area. Private suites and the best seats in the house come as part of the Diamond Club package.

Brett Jones, The T20 USA, Inc. CEO, called the unveiling of the stadium “a fantastic celebration, showcasing a truly out of this world stadium.” He added that “having Curtly Ambrose, Liam Plunkett, Shoaib Malik, Corey Anderson, and Monank Patel here and seeing their response to the stadium and the playing surface was also pretty special.”

Olympian Usain Bolt poses with the official 2024 ICC T20 World Cup jacket and a cricket bat at the ... [+] new Nassau County International Stadium.Courtesy of ICC
Cricket in the U.S.

Speaking to me in April, Jones said that he expected this tournament to be “the biggest cricket carnival ever held in the U.S.” Demand for tickets has been extremely high, with over 1 million requests submitted for the India vs Pakistan match in Nassau County. However, Jones made clear that “the message is, there are still tickets available.”

Bringing international cricket to the U.S. is part of a coherent strategy from the ICC to grow the game’s global presence. Cricket is the second most popular sport in the world, with over 1 billion fans, and according to Jones, the data shows that there is “a really strong fanbase in the U.S.” The hope is that this tournament will build on the success of Major League Cricket and cement the sport in the hearts and minds of existing and new American fans.

When asked if he thought the U.S. was ready to become a cricket-loving nation, Usain Bolt said “think anything is possible.” The Olympian was adamant that the key to the tournament’s success in the U.S. was to keep the energy up and promote the game as much as possible. He added that he would tell fans “to give it a chance,” and said he finds T20 very exciting because it is a faster, more dynamic version of the sport that demands that players are aggressive and tough, making for a fun-filled fan experience.

The World Cup coming to the U.S. is another bet on the robust American sports market. With cricket expected to be a major element of the 2028 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, creating familiarity amongst the American populace now is a wise move. Jones said that the ICC is looking to create a fun and inclusive experience that shows broadcasters and venues that it is easy working with cricket. He admitted bringing the tournament to U.S. soil is no small undertaking, but insisted that excitement is building as the tournament nears. That excitement is multiplied by stars from other sports, like Bolt, John Starks (NBA), Bartolo Colón (MLB), Victor Cruz (NFL), Ibtihaj Muhammad (Olympian), and Elena Delle Donne (WNBA) helping promote the sport in the U.S.

American fans that cannot make it to one of the three home soil venues can watch all the games from home on the streaming platform Willow, which can be accessed through Sling TV. Willow costs $10 a month or $65 a year for the first year. However, competition for eyeballs this summer will be tough, with the T20 World Cup overlapping with the MLB season, the Copa America (hosted by the U.S.), and Euro 2024.

Cricket in The West Indies

While the group stage will take place in the West Indies and the U.S., the elimination portion of the World Cup will be entirely in the Caribbean. The West Indies is an exceptionally talented cricket environment and boasts one of the most passionate fan bases on Earth.

Having won the T20 World Cup twice, in 2012 and 2016, the West Indies will be looking to become the first nation to win the shorter version of the cricket World Cup for a third time. For Usain Bolt, bringing the T20 Cricket World Cup back to the Western Hemisphere is a dream, although, referring to his home country of Jamaica, he admits “I was actually very disappointed we are not getting any games,”. Nevertheless, he expects a great atmosphere, with music and party vibes as the games are played out under the Caribbean sun.

Bolt is adamant that international cricket will return to Jamaica soon, noting, “We do not need to promote cricket just in America, we need to continue promoting it in the Caribbean.” While the tournament is taking place, Bolt hopes to have former cricketers run clinics for children, thereby spreading the love for the game further afield.

With just two weeks until the tournament begins all the venues are now prepared. The only thing left to do is grab tickets and tune in to what will be America’s first major cricket event, and the West Indies chance to become the most successful T20 Cricket nation ever.

Source: Forbes

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