Op-ed | Why the Bronx should yes to bringing cricket to the United States

Van Cortlandt Park.
File photo

Next year, New York City has a chance to make history. The International Cricket Council is looking for cities to host the Men’s T20 World Cup, and New York City is among the finalists. What’s being proposed is a history making temporary pop-up stadium in Van Cortlandt Park, the heart of cricket, not just in New York City, but across the country. As the largest recreational cricket league based right here in the Bronx, our members are thrilled.

It would bring the world’s second most popular sport to the global capital of the world, offer a rich and diverse cultural experience for our community, and infuse our neighborhoods with millions of dollars in vital economic activity. It would be the first time a global cricket tournament has been hosted in the United States.

New York City has long been the globe’s melting pot – a rich tapestry of every walk of life from every corner of the world. The T20 tournament reflects that diversity with 20 participating nations. These nations represent the immigrant communities that have helped New York City flourish from the West Indies and India to Pakistan and Afghanistan. At long last, these immigrant, Black, and Brown people have a chance to see their sport from their own backyard. Imagine the impact on the next generation of cricketers when the world’s best players are here on their doorstep in New York City. World Cups inspire new fans, motivate kids to get involved in sport and generate hundreds of millions of dollars for local communities.

Bringing cricket to the United States is an opportunity for the cultural cross pollination that makes New York City one of a kind. The sport has more than 1 billion fans and 300 million participants worldwide, yet it has not permeated American culture like basketball or football. Despite that, there are still 30 million cricket fans in the United States including myself and my fellow recreational players. This is an opportunity to change all of that with New York City leading the way.

Make no mistake – cricket coming to New York City benefits not just the tens of thousands of fans here, but it will benefit all of the Bronx and beyond. Hosting a World Cup attracts tourists and fans from around the world. New York City would see a surge in tourism, hotel bookings, restaurants, and other businesses, boosting the local economy.

Recent reporting shows the real proof that this tournament could create thousands of jobs and well over $150 million in economic impact. Lastly, a key fact being lost in all of this is that the International Cricket Council has committed to entirely funding for the stadium – a huge win for local tax payer dollars. Our community would see tremendous economic and legacy benefits without the major costs.

However, false narratives and misinformation have muddied the debate and jeopardized this opportunity. For instance, some have reported that local cricket leagues are mad at the possibility of losing space for our recreational games. This could not be further from the truth. As the Chair of the largest recreational cricket league in the United States, I cannot state strongly enough that we support the Men’s T20 World Cup 2024 coming to Van Cortlandt Park.

This tournament would leave a lasting legacy for the local cricket community, expanding the sport’s fan base while providing better infrastructure and playing conditions for players at all levels. The International Cricket Council have committed to upgrading all the cricket facilities in Van Cortlandt Park, not just the two that their proposal covers. They have committed to working with us on rescheduling fixtures and providing new roll out pitch mats that means we can take cricket to more parks in New York City than ever before.

That’s not to mention the domestic Trophy Tour that would inspire cricketers across the United States as well as the schools and social impact programs the International Cricket Council runs in every host community benefiting thousands of children in New York. A world cup tournament is historic, it has long-term effects and will inspire a new generation. We, the local cricket players would gladly share our space to be a part of that game-changing history.

Above all, the opportunity to host this tournament isn’t just about the next year. It’s about the next generation.

Cricket will eventually make its way here to the United States the same way soccer did over the last several years. I hope our leaders make the right decision and lead the nation in bringing cricket to New York City. It will leave a mark on the community’s history and serve as a benchmark for future sporting events, encouraging other major tournaments to see our city as a viable option. Let’s not run away from this opportunity but lean into doing what New York City does best – going big and bold.

Ajith Shetty is chair of the Commonwealth Cricket League, the largest cricket league in the U.S.