The Knight Riders Group will play “a very broad role” in the USA-based Major League Cricket (MLC), the latest attempt to launch a franchise-led T20 tournament that is expected to kick off in 2022. That brings to three the number of leagues in which the Knight Riders Group have a team, after the IPL and CPL, and they will hold a “significant” stake in the tournament.
The investment in the MLC by the Knight Riders group, which is owned by Bollywood actors Shah Rukh Khan and Juhi Chawla along with her husband Jay Mehta, will be strategic and see them playing the role of “consultant” to help USA Cricket run the six-team T20 league.
The league will be unlike a number of others at least in one way: the six (to start with) franchises will own a part of it. “In the IPL or the CPL, you own a franchise, and that’s all you own and operate”, whereas in the case of the MLC, “you have a stake in the league”, Venky Mysore, CEO and managing director of the Knight Riders, said.
The Knight Riders Group, which owns Kolkata Knight Riders and the Trinbago Knight Riders, was invited by American Cricket Enterprises (ACE), USA Cricket’s partner in developing a professional T20 league in America. The result is what both ACE and Mysore have called “a long-term investment in American cricket”.
“When they invited us, we said we want to take a deep dive into this, and not just have a short-term outlook,” Mysore told ESPNcricinfo. “So they see us as a consultant in many ways, apart from being a big part of the league. They want us to play a very broad role, to help and assist them with all aspects of cricket in the US.
“USA Cricket are looking at a bigger national cricket set-up, academies, develop talent, and all that is complementary to what the T20 league will do as well. In addition, we will be working hard to build infrastructure there, six world-class stadiums in the next few years.
“It will be like a public-private partnership where you have conversations with the city council and they are used to doing it with other sports when it comes to, say, giving you land, or long-term financing arrangements.
“Eventually their ambition is to host international competitions, including, potentially, the World Cup. So this could be on the agenda. USA has a strong sports culture. It’s also the No. 1 media market. Cricket is the second-most-watched sport in the world, so you combine it all, it’s got all the ingredients of a very successful product.”
Only last week, Greg Barclay, the new ICC chairman, indicated that the USA would likely be one of the places cricket will target in its push for further growth. He had also hinted at the possibility of wresting global events away from India, England and Australia, and that the USA would be “the logical place to start”.
If and when it is launched, having been postponed by a year already due to the Covid-19 outbreak, MLC will be the first professional T20 league in America. It is already the latest in a string of attempted professional T20 league ventures in America since the start of the millennium.
ProCricket was launched with much fanfare in 2005 and was headlined by numerous former internationals including Mervyn Dillon, Robin Singh and Colin Miller, but it folded operations after just one season. A planned venture by independent New York businessman Jay Mir called American Premier League was targeted for 2008 but never launched.
The USA Cricket Association then signed an agreement in 2010 with New Zealand Cricket, Neil Maxwell’s Insite and Podar Enterprises to start a franchise league by the year 2012 but various administrative issues resulted in another failed launch. USACA later signed a $70 million agreement in 2016 with former St Lucia Zouks owner Jay Pandya, once again aimed at launching a T20 league. However, USACA was under ICC suspension at the time, throwing the validity of the Pandya agreement into doubt and plans fizzled out a year later when USACA was formally expelled by the ICC.
Pandya’s “American Cricket Premier League” subsequently filed a lawsuit in May 2019 attempting to block American Cricket Enterprises from pursuing a T20 league in partnership with USA Cricket, but the suit was withdrawn a year later.
“What you are looking at here, is that everyone is aligned,” Mysore said. “You have a stake in the league, and the decisions that are made have a bearing on you and the league. You are also looking out for the health of the tournament. Here, we will be party to the decision-making, which is important.
“Normally, the finances flow into the entity that owns the league, whereas here, the stakeholders get a large chunk of it. To that extent, you gain or lose based on the kind of decisions that are made.”
From the point of view of the Knight Riders Group, who had also bought a team in the aborted South African Global T20 League – the Cape Town franchise – the aim has been to become a round-the-year entity, something they have made clear for some time now.
“Lots of people say we are the only global brand in T20 cricket, and we take a lot of pride in that,” Mysore said. “That was always our vision. The IPL is for two months, and maybe a month leading up to that, but what do you do to keep your brand alive the rest of the year.
“The vision is to build the business at a global level, and own two, three, four, five franchises around the world, and build them on the mother brand of Knight Riders, and use a common template and model about how you operationalise the business, how you do your branding, your sponsorship deals, your merchandising deals, etc.”
MLC is expected to be a city-based competition, but while developing six stadia is a big part of the plan, it is likely to start with three venues, according to Mysore: Fort Lauderdale, which has hosted international cricket in the past; a Dallas-based baseball ground that will be repurposed; and one in Morrisville, North Carolina.
“They were very encouraged that UAE was able to hold an eight-team event in three cities, and this is a six-team event,” Mysore said. “In five years, they might think about expanding it. That’s the broad thought process.”
There is talk of at least some prominent names from Test-playing countries being on the radar of MLC, as and when the time for such a thing comes up, but the player-recruitment process will be the same as elsewhere to start with: a draft or an auction, with players from around the world listed. “Then, over time, when the scouting and grassroots programmes kick in, we are hoping more and more local players get involved,” Mysore said.
Recent Match Report – Yorkshire vs Leics North Group 2021
Yorkshire given scare in defence of massive 240 in aggregate record for Blast
Yorkshire 240 for 4 (Bairstow 82, Lyth 51, Brook 48*) beat Leicestershire 222 for 8 (Inglis 82, Willey 3-44) by 18 runs
Leicestershire, 146 for 3 in the 13th over with opener Inglis unbeaten, later slipped to a fourth straight North Group defeat. But Inglis ensured they fought to the death at 222 for 8.
This was Yorkshire’s second win in three North Group games, and 462 runs combined equals the Blast record.
The triumph was built on a 113 opening partnership in 10.1 overs between Bairstow and Lyth, with further half-century stands for the third and fifth wickets.
On a glorious Leeds evening, there were 29 sixes hit.
Each of the Foxes six-man attack was taken to task after home captain Willey had won his side’s 10th toss in 11 in all cricket in 2021.
Afghanistan seamer Naveen-ul-Haq claimed two wickets, getting Willey and Bairstow caught in the deep in the 17th over. That left Yorkshire at 189 for four.
Fellow quick Gavin Griffiths had a night to forget, conceding 60 in three overs, as Bairstow set the tone, giving the Foxes fielders little chance with his power.
Leicestershire’s chase was always going to be a mountainous task. But that suited the dashing style of 26-year-old opener Inglis, who emigrated to Perth just before turning 15.
Having lost Scott Steel to Willey in the first over, Inglis and Arron Lilley took their side to 50 for 1 after only 3.4 overs to threaten a miracle.
Thompson had Ackermann caught in the deep and then brilliantly caught former under 11s team-mate Inglis one-handed at deep cover off Matthew Fisher.
That left 95 needed off 7.3 overs with six wickets left.
Ben Mike’s 31 helped the target to 31 off two overs and 23 off the last – with three wickets in hand. But Willey comfortably defended that and finished with 3 for 44.
Recent Match Report – Essex vs Sussex South Group 2021
Skipper slams 75 from 44 to help make short work of small chase
Sussex 130 for 3 (Wright 75) beat Essex 128 for 8 (Garton 3-31) by seven wickets
The Blast’s all-time leading run-scorer missed the opening two rounds after splitting the webbing in his hand while practising fielding on the eve of the competition. But he made up for lost time by bringing up his fifty in 33 deliveries as Sussex chased down Essex’s below-par 128 for eight with 36 balls to spare.
Wright looked at home right from the start, with boundaries from his second and third deliveries – two of eight fours.
Opening partner Phil Salt earned a life when he bludgeoned a full toss to mid-on, only to earn a reprieve for the umpire to judge the ball to have been above waist-height, much to Simon Harmer’s chagrin. Salt was run out for 13, after putting on 54 with Wright before Travis Head added 60 together with the skipper.
Wright continued to his 26th Blast half-century, going past 8000 T20 career runs, with a pair of straight sixes and another over cow corner. He departed with six still needed but Delray Rawlins clattered the winning runs over long-off soon after.
Wright’s day had started perfectly as he won the toss and stuck the hosts in – although Will Buttleman struck successive sixes in the fourth over. On a used hybrid pitch, scoring proved difficult for Essex with only Buttleman, Michael Pepper and Jimmy Neesham’s strike rates topping 100, for those who reached double figures.
The strain on scoring was exemplified by the last over of the Powerplay, which saw just one run, as Paul Walter struggled to lay a bat on Chris Jordan – the run rate throughout the innings hovering just below seven an over.
To add to the Eagles’ woes, wickets were a regular occurrence. Tom Westley and Buttleman fell in the Powerplay – the former picking out deep midwicket off George Garton and the latter slapping a Tymal Mills slower ball to cover.
Walter was stumped, Ryan ten Doeschate clubbed old pal Ravi Bopara to long off, Pepper – having scored 38 off 25 balls – drilled to extra cover, Harmer miscued to midwicket, Jack Plom skied to mid-off and Neesham was comprehensively bowled.
Garton ended up with 3 for 31, with Mills, Jordan and Bopara all going at under a run-a-ball.
Recent Match Report – Hampshire vs Middlesex South Group 2021
Imposing Hampshire target overhauled with two balls to spare in outground thriller
Middlesex 217 for 7 (Cracknell 77, Simpson 62) beat Hampshire 215 for 6 (Short 48, McManus 47, Weatherley 41) by three wickets with two balls to spare
Middlesex pulled off their second highest T20 chase – by three wickets with two balls to spare – in a memorable match at Radlett which saw the next generation take charge of a county going through a difficult transition, and leave another ailing T20 side, Hampshire, fearing that they don’t seem to be in much of a transition at all.
Radlett is about as far away from the ECB’s vision of T20 cricket as it is possible to be. The dream is maximum revenue from large stadia, a football-style atmosphere and a sense of theatre that delights a TV audience. Start an overly loud, alcohol-fuelled chant at Radlett and you may be blackballed from the golf club or become the subject of gossip in the Ladies Circle.
Hampshire’s first 200-plus total for three years was eminently chaseable in perfect batting conditions. But patently not by Middlesex, most of their supporters would have suggested. At 30 for 3, with Morgan trudging off, having reached at a very wide one to hole out at deep backward point, a philosophical kind of pessimism had taken hold.
Radlett is an idyllic county ground: a good batting surface, a ground lined by trees and hedges, and a convivial crowd adopting a Country Show attitude to any minor privations in the marquees and the portable toilets. They were allowed not far short of 1,000 spectators which is roughly the same as some of the smaller county grounds, which have stands and things. All to do with pinch points apparently.
They were on the verge of a colossal Powerplay with 68 garnered from the first five overs and Vince and D’Arcy Short in a blissful world where they could do much as they pleased. With Middlesex lacking five pace bowlers because of injury or (in the case of Tom Helm) recovery from Covid-19, a colossal score looked on the cards.
Then came Cullen. Three off the first over; Vince’s head-high hook falling to deep backward square in his next. In his final over, he twice troubled Hampshire’s ex-Middlesex man, James Fuller, twice for pace, the first of them gloved to third man.
Cullen, a former England U19, has played for Middlesex since the U10s, and both player and club are beginning to reap the reward of years of endeavour. Pacey, with a strong action, he can reputedly swing the ball in four-day cricket, but here, he adapted intelligently and hit the pitch. The assessment of Middlesex’s director of cricket, Angus Fraser, that he “bowls like a grown man” could not have been more apparent.
Green’s night did not begin well. He averages below seven runs an over in a career spanning more than 70 matches, making him beloved of T20 aficionados, and he was also on the back of a five-for against Kent, with four wickets taken in the final over. He was Middlesex’s most expensive bowler, leaking 55 from four overs as his method of pushing it fast and wide across the right-hander brought no dividends.
Middlesex missed chances in the field, and a succession of shots escaped clawing fingers. The most damaging, in more than one sense, was Sowter’s drop of Dawson, running in from deep backward square, his right ankle sprained in the process. But not damaged enough for him to play a part in Middlesex’s uplifting victory.
David Hopps writes on county cricket for ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps
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