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Major League Cricket Debuts in the U.S.

Major League Cricket Debuts in the U.S.

Influential India-born business people are bringing the world’s second-most popular game to U.S. audiences. Major League Cricket has attracted Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, who has a piece of Seattle’s professional team, the Orcas. Bollywood’s famous actor Shah Rukh Khan, meanwhile, is investing in a cricket stadium near Los Angeles for the league.

Most Americans may not take cricket seriously, but in 2024 the country will co-host (with the West Indies) a cricket World Cup, qualifying the American team automatically.

Three decades ago, Silicon Valley venture capitalist Anand Rajaraman left India to study at Stanford University wondering whether he was leaving behind  cricket, his beloved sport, for good. In an interview with Forbes, Chennai-raised Rajaraman recounted his journey in becoming instrumental in making cricket a franchise sport in his adopted country, luring top players from powerhouse cricket nations with healthy remuneration. “I never dreamed that the possibility would arise even though I’ve always been a huge fan,” he said.

The advent of the Indian Premier League in 2008 had him musing over his aim in bringing cricket to the U.S. “It was the beginning of cricket moving from a sport that was being played between national teams and becoming a franchise model,” he said. “That along with the T20 format which took a five-day sport and packaged it into a three-hour format” he thought “were the right things needed to bring cricket into the U.S., which is a franchise sports country.”

Believing in, “The macro factors are very, very favorable. We have the second most popular sport in the world and the largest sports market in the world. There are enough passionate fans in the U.S. who follow cricket and watch games through the middle of the night.,” Rajaraman and his associate Venky Harinarayan built a franchise from scratch.

The six founding franchises – San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Seattle, Texas and Washington – are in key markets with a healthy number of expatriates from South Asia.

Harinarayan and Rajaraman are co-founders of the San Francisco franchise Unicorns. The Unicorns’ playing kit and logo will be orange, light blue and navy blue, colors representing the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean.

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