T20 World Cup 2024: Cricket and USA — strange bedfellows indeed

The Nassau County International Cricket Stadium, the venue for India’s group stage matches, is nestled inside the Eisenhower Park.

Published - June 03, 2024 10:10 pm IST - New York

Different flavour: Cricket in the United States has a new ring to it.

Different flavour: Cricket in the United States has a new ring to it. | Photo Credit: K.R. Deepak

The immigration queue at the John F. Kennedy Airport here is a long and winding road. Up ahead in the line is a famous former India cricketer. For the most part, he goes unrecognised. There are no selfie requests. The Nassau County International Cricket Stadium, the venue for India’s group stage matches, is nestled inside the Eisenhower Park. The picturesque 930-acre public park is adjacent to the historic Nassau Coliseum, which has hosted sold-out shows by Elvis Presley, Led Zeppelin and The Beach Boys, just to name a few.

At the stadium, the classic tune “American Pie” by Don McLean wafts through the air from the phone speaker of a tournament official. Next up on the playlist — yet another American staple, “Have you ever seen the rain” by Creedence Clearwater Revival.

Entry into the ground is smooth once identification is shown to the security personnel. With a thick New York accent, the security officer greets visitors and performs a body scan. The officer is carrying a gun in a holster.

The Cantiague Park, a training venue, is a short drive away. On guard here is the New York City Police, complete with crisp black uniforms and police cars. The officers enquire about our business — he is happy to concede that he does not follow cricket.

A couple of days ago, his colleagues from the New York Police clinically took down a fan who rushed onto the field to greet India captain Rohit Sharma in a warm-up game. Rohit, who recognised that the intruder was just an irritant, but no threat, seemed to ask the officers to ease up with the force of the tackle.

Just outside Cantiague Park, a former international cricketer stands next to his chauffeur-driven SUV. A stalwart with over 250 caps for his country, he sips on a can of Pepsi and waits patiently for his identification card to be delivered. He needs it for entry. One can imagine the New York Police being unmoved, unconvinced when the cricketer tried to persuade them with tales of his impressive feats on the field.

The night comes to an end with dinner at a nearby restaurant. Beside the busy pool is a sign — “Vote Trump! Power to the People!”. Cricket and the United States of America (New York, in particular) — strange bedfellows indeed. The 2024 ICC Men’s T20 World Cup, and cricket in general, has arrived on fresh shores.

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