By Our Correspondent
Cricket in the United States of America (USA) was a distant dream a few years ago but lately the happening of a few large-scale events is seen as a ray of hope for a prosperous future. The West Indies and India cricket teams locked horns in the Florida Stadium only recently to give impetus to the efforts for the game’s promotion in the American region.
This might surprise many that the first ever international match took place in the region was between Canada and the USA in 1844. In Latin America, cricket was introduced to Argentina as far back as 1806.
It’s a journey of over 200 years but unfortunately the desired distance has been covered but it’s never too late. There are a few cricket enthusiasts and organisers who are striving for the cause and Mahmood (Max) Shaukat is one of them.
Max Shaukat is the Chairman and the Chief Executive Officer of 2X Cricket USA Cup 2016 which is scheduled to be at held at the Moosa cricket stadium in Houston, Texas from November 9th to November 13th this year.
The www.scoreline.org approached Max Shaukat to inquire about his vision and the roadmap for the game’s development and also about the upcoming T20 tournament.
Scoreline: Share your experience of organising large-scale events
Max: I have a fair amount of experience when it comes to hosting events, in particular large scale events. This includes hosting some of the largest cricket matches in North America to bringing Nusrat Fateh to Central Park or broadcasting live parades/festivals from New York, DC, Houston or holding major investment summits.
Scoreline: How did you come along with the idea of 2x cricket USA cup?
Max: When Sakhi Muhammad, the owner of the Moosa Stadium, approached me to head a cricket tournament in Houston, I was interested because cricket is a passion of mine. Additionally, for over 10 years I had promoted and hosted cricket in the USA at the highest level and on a full time basis.
That got me excited to introduce my long held belief of two innings T20 matches. I have always understood that cricket is a two innings game. Without the two innings the sport loses it soul, results become predictable and the game is deprived of the skill, the drama and the creativity needed to make it interesting for the players and the fans to enjoy.
Scoreline: Tell us more about this concept and playing format.
Max: In a very subtle way, this change makes the game more understandable for those who are new to the sport – especially for those Americans, who are interested in the sport but find it too complicated. This simplifies it for them.
Two innings, 10 outs and 60 pitches in each inning – six pitches makes one over. Not out players at the end of the first inning can continue to play in the second innings, bowlers can bowl the allotted number of overs as allowed in a traditional T20 game. In this way, the record and performances of the players will be compatible with the 20 overs format.
For the two innings to be implemented one has to include the concept of follow on. Here we have a simple rule. If a team gets bowled out in one inning for less than the half of the other team’s score, than the team with the larger score has the choice to force a follow on.
This does complicate the game a bit but on the other hand it creates excitement and interest among the teams, captains, commentators, pundits and the fans. So overall it lends itself as a positive improvement still adhering to cricket’s origin. To keep the essence of T20 we have kept the rest of the rules the same as they apply in a Twenty20 game.
Scoreline: What was the response to your unique plan?
Max: Sakhi readily agreed to the 2X concept. I wanted to add one more element and he agreed to that too. Just like soccer, the sides would change end after each inning of 10 overs. In this way both sides will get to bat at both ends and the time it takes to change the field after each over will be reduced. From that concept, both Sakhi and I agreed on the idea of 2x cricket USA Cup.
Scoreline: How many matches will be played during the course of the tournament?
Max: It goes on for 5 days and there is no other event of this kind that lasts as many days. We wanted this to be a meaningful title for the participating teams. 15 matches will be played over the five-day tournament is a remarkable achievement. We hope to grow this into a weeklong affair in the coming years.
Scoreline: How this event is significant and credible as compare to the other cricket tournaments in the USA?
Max: The credibility of the Cricket USA Cup can be judged by the quality of the teams and the players participating in this tournament. Teams from near and far are bidding to be a part of this event. We hope to make their trip to the USA Cup worthy of their trust in us.
All the monies generated through this process will be given back as a purse to the winning and the runner up teams. Additionally there is a brand new Mitsubishi car that will be given away as a prize to the winning team. The team can use the car or take its cash value of $20,000.
Scoreline: By giving away so much aren’t you losing a considerable amount of your profit share?
Max: Since this is a not for profit event, our future plans include a situation where we pay the teams to participate. This will happen on the success of this year’s USA Cup matches, the support of cricket fans, sponsors and the cricket authorities.
Scoreline: What is the plan to reach out to maximum audience?
Max: For the first time in the US history a number of mainstream ethnic broadcasters will be broadcasting this event live in North America. This includes, TV One and Aaj TV on Dish Network, Palwasha (Pashto) TV on live streaming. Additional Indian, Punjabi, Bengali and other broadcasters are lining up to provide the broadcast to their viewers. People attending this event or watching it on TV will not be disappointed.
Scoreline: It will just be a cricketing event or will you add entertainment to it as well like it happens in T20 leagues world over?
Max: We are doing our level best to make this a thrilling experience for everyone. The quality of the games will be top class. For the players, we have planned night time activities, including a Texas style BBQ with country music and a Bollywood night dinner with music and dance.
Scoreline: What is your idea about the game’s promotion in the region?
Max: For the future growth of cricket, it is strategically important that the games should be playable in prime time and for about three-hour duration, therefore Twenty20 is the ideal format for the viewers, sponsors, advertisers, the broadcasters and fun for the audiences. I believe, the concept of 2X – two innings of 10 overs each – is a preferred and sustainable format for the future of cricket in the USA and globally.
Scoreline: The tournament will be held at the Moosa stadium, is the place well-equipped?
Max: The Moosa Stadium is a dedicated cricket stadium of international standards. The pitch is being prepared by a foremost professional in the field. The umpiring will be done by the ICC approved and qualified professionals. This event is a total professional package.
Scoreline: Finally, your message to cricket lovers in the American region?
Max: Our message to everyone, we are going to have one hell of a great tournament. Join us and have a whole new experience.