Kolkata Knight Riders have emerged to be the world’s first franchise-cricket MNC in the last few years. After a successful foreign association in the CPL with the Trinbago Knight Riders, KKR are set to help USA Cricket to put Major League Cricket (MLC) in motion from 2022.
The Knight Riders group owned by Bollywood actors Shahrukh Khan and Juhi Chawla along with her husband Jay Mehta, will hon the role of a ‘Consultant’ to set up the six-team T20 league. Explaining the uniqueness of the league with respect to a franchise, KKR CEO and Managing Director, Venky Mysore said, “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.”
American Cricket Enterprises (ACE), USA Cricket’s partner in developing a professional T20 league in America invited the India-based company to what is termed as “a long-term investment in American cricket.”
So the Knight Riders franchise is spreading roots with the announcement of the LA Knight Riders in the US! An Indian cricket MNC? Looking forward to Major League Cricket. There have been many efforts to tap the US cricket market. Maybe this time! @VenkyMysore
— Harsha Bhogle (@bhogleharsha) December 1, 2020
“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. 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”
Major League Cricket (MLC), USA
Sameer Mehta and Vijay Srinivasan of ACE and MLC:
“By adding the Knight Riders Group to our family of world-class and diverse investors, this investment into the future of Major League Cricket is a huge validation of our vision for the new league, and we are particularly excited to have such an iconic cricketing brand onboard with us. As USA Cricket’s official partner in developing a professional T20 league in America, we have a shared vision to bring world-class professional cricket to the world’s largest sports market.”
MLC will only be America’s second T20 league when launched, after the solitary ProCricket season in 2005. The tournament was first slated to start in July 2021 but was postponed a year, following the COVID19 pandemic.
As a pre-cursor to the cricketing extravaganza, USA Cricket also introduced the Minor Cricket League paving a pathway for the players to appear in the main league in 2022. Divided into 4 conferences, the teams play a set of exhibition matches between themselves allowing enough opportunities for everyone to capitalize on.
The Major League Cricket (MLC) will be played across 6 stadia, three of which will begin preparation right away. Explaining the same, Mysore said that they are likely to start with three venues: 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.
“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 programs kick in, we are hoping more and more local players get involved,” Mysore said.
The addition of the Knight Riders Group might well prove to be a real gamechanger for USA Cricket as well as world cricket in general. Even the new ICC Chariman Greg Barclay, recently indicated that the USA would likely be one of the places cricket will target in its push for further growth. He further 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”.