ICC T20 Cricket World Cup’s First Time In America Will Be A Bridge For The Sport And For Generations

Interview by Atif Kazmi for Por Homme

We’re less than a hundred days away from what will be one of the biggest sporting events of the year — the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup. Yes, the world’s second largest sport is about to take the country by storm. It is jointly hosted by Cricket West Indies and the USA with matches being played across nine different venues. Tournament Director Fawwaz Baksh spoke to us about all that it’s taken to bring the Cricket World Cup to the States and what fans can expect. 

Please introduce yourself and the role you’re playing with ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2024. 

My name is Fawwaz Baksh. I’m the tournament director of the ICC Men’s 2024 world cup. I’m attached to Cricket West Indies, the host for this tournament along with the USA as well. We are the main body who got the tournament not only to the West Indies but also to the USA. 

This is really about the experience for the community and the journey that took to get here. 

Yes, it’s been a collaborative effort between USA Cricket and Cricket West Indies to get it here.

The work started in 2018, when we first had the opportunity to bid for the tournament, through a bid process with the ICC. We joined forces, both USA Cricket and Cricket West Indies. With the experience that we have at Cricket West Indies in running a world cup event, and of course, with the facilities that are available in the USA, we can easily get stadiums up to ICC standards. And with our knowledge and experience in running the world cup, we can collaborate and get our tournament here. It ticked all of ICC’s boxes in terms of why the game should come here.

And here we are in 2024, about to host the biggest tournament cricket has ever seen. It has 20 teams playing in 55 matches over a 1-month period. It’s being hosted by seven countries, including the USA, and nine venues. 

It’s insane, you just said it. Seven different countries, it’s all happening within a one-month period. I know that you’re from the West Indies, but do you see New York City as the most in-demand of all those? And for what you guys are seeing right now, the data that you have, the information that you have, the buzz around every single country hosting, what does New York look like in the shape of that seven right now?

Like you said, I’m West Indian, but you can’t hide the facts. We launched the ticket balance system, because we wanted to make sure that everybody had the opportunity to get the tickets fairly. When we launched it, within two days all of the matches in the USA were gone. Now we thought it would take a while to fill 34,000 seats. Stadiums in the USA generally range around 40,000 seats. In less than one week all of the matches in the US were gone. 

Now that we are actually going live with the ticket sales, there’s really no tickets available right now. 

New York has surely been the centerfold of this tournament now. The demand and the interest has been amazing. And we can expect that this tournament, especially in New York, will be something out of this world. An experience that nobody will ever have.

It’s a melting pot, we know that. The amount of diverse backgrounds that all converge on New York City has been the foundation of New York for a very long time. You’re doing the same thing with the tournament. You’ve then decided that the most competitive match, the biggest rivalry in the world when it comes to cricket – India vs. Pakistan – you’re bringing to New York City.

That’s right. We wanted the tournament to come with a splash. And the best way to make an impact, as you say, put your foot in the door and make an impact is to bring the biggest match ever known to cricket right here in New York. You can’t fill a 34,000-seat stadium and not have the biggest match here. So why not?

The semi-finals, the finals are going to be great matches as well. And you never know, you might get a repeat of the India vs. Pakistan match in the semi-finals and the finals. But one of the guaranteed biggest matches that will ever be played in this tournament is India vs. Pakistan match. We basically sold that venue for that match at 200 times over standard demand of tickets too.

That just shows just how much demand there is here. 

Now, entire generations of young kids and young adults who never actually grew up on cricket because they weren’t there, they weren’t back home where their parents were, didn’t get that firsthand experience of the sport. They saw it on TV, they saw it when big tentpole events were happening, but they never saw it the way that they are going to see it here in New York City. So I think there’s an opportunity to bridge those generations with these matches. Would you agree?

That is exactly why we brought the matches here to the USA. and just like you said, cricket for you and I, it wasn’t a sport. It was a religion. For us in the West Indies, and I say it all the time, is that a part of our culture, our identity. When you see cricket on TV, it wasn’t a group of guys, they’re part of your family. And we want to foster that environment here as well. And like you said, a lot of the children know, or hear about cricket through their parents.

Now, by bringing this tournament here, they’ll have the opportunity to sit and look onto the field with 34,000 of their peers. Looking at a sport that their peers grew up with and talk with full support. And hopefully they’ll fall in love with it just as we did. And I think this is the perfect opportunity and the perfect medium to introduce this sport to the world. And to love what we love as well.

I can’t think of a better scenario to introduce people into this game. It sets a path to future cricket tournaments. As you know, in 2028 they’ll have cricket in the Olympics. And that’s going to be right in LA. And I think that’s the time for bringing cricket here for this world cup.

Scheduled from June 1 to June 29, 2024, the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup will see 20 international teams vying for glory in 55 matches spread across nine cities. Among the notable venues is the newly inaugurated Nassau County International Cricket Stadium in New York, an emblem of the sport’s burgeoning popularity in the region.

Though tickets are currently sold out, keep an eye on things as new tickets may release to give those currently on the outside looking into experience the World Cup firsthand.


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