IPL-like Major League Cricket in a year in US, says Anand Rajaraman

Fourteen years since the launch of the Indian Premier League (IPL), T20 cricket has made its inroads into newer territories and its popularity has touched new highs. Several leagues on the lines of IPL have already been launched including the ones in Pakistan, Bangladesh, and the Caribbean.

And if everything goes as planned, a first-ever T20 league in the United States could well see the light of the day in a year.

Anand Rajaraman, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, the co-founder of Junglee which was acquired by Amazon in 1998, and a cricket enthusiast himself, told The Hindu Businessline that the league was coming along fairly well.

He added that a group of investors is backing it and key players have been identified already. Rajaraman, a big CSK fan when it comes to IPL, is one of the early investors in the US league, the purpose of which he says is to take the game forward in the country.

According to him, some of the investors include big names such as Satya Nadella, Shantanu Narayen, Surah Iyer, Vijay Shekhar Sharma, among others, who have come together under American Cricket Enterprises (ACE) to fund what will be called the Major League Cricket. The name for the cricket tournament appears to have drawn inspiration from Major League Soccer, the country’s top football league.

Since Cricket is still not among the most popular games in the US, Rajaraman says the league will feature six teams from Indian Diaspora-dominated cities in the first year. “The plan is to have a US city-based league, with a Chicago team, an LA team, a Houston team, etc., and those teams will bring in talent from all over the world. Eventually, the goal is to create a US national team that can play the World Cup,” says Rajaraman.

Reports hint that Shah Rukh Khan, who owns Kolkata Knight Riders in the IPL and has also ventured into the Caribbean League, may have a team in the Major League Cricket too. The team from Los Angeles may be named the LA Knight Riders.

“There’s a huge training segment to this plan as well. It is not going to be just another league, but we’re going to be training youngsters also in cricket,” said Rajaraman.

Rajaraman says the idea behind the league is to make cricket a mainstream game in the US, where basketball, football, and soccer command the most popularity. acknowledges the league will, initially at least, attract diaspora. The objective is to prepare the US for the World Cup, he says.

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