As an English cricket fan living in the US, I had pretty much given up hope of ever seeing world Class cricket live in the flesh. As it seems to be one sport that is not liked, not understood, and is unlikely to ever crack the US market.

Too British, too complicated, too boring are just some of the phrases I have heard used to describe it.

So imagine my surprise when I find that just 20 miles from my home in Florida, two of the best teams in the World, India, and the West Indies are playing in a purpose-built cricket stadium in Fort Lauderdale this weekend.

Even more surprising, is that even though cricket is just 20 miles away, I still won't be able to watch it as the game is a massive sell out with tickets going for several times their face value.

So how did that happen?

There have been several groups involved in the growth of cricket in the USA over the years, USACA United States Cricket Association, CCUSA the Cricket Council USA, and of course the ICC the International Cricket Committee who govern cricket on a worldwide basis.

To understand how this had happened I speak to the top management of Cricket Council of the USA (CCUSA).

Maq Qureshi, Founder & CEO of CCUSA, a successful entrepreneur who has been heavily involved in the development of cricket in the US for the last 17 years credits his vision and his organization's ability to promote cricket at a regional level. Conducting and managing tournaments nationwide, attracting sponsors and International players to US cricket.

He sees recently played 6 Caribbean Premier League games and India vs West Indies T20 Series at Lauderhill Cricket Stadium, which he was instrumental in establishing, a result & reward for his hard work.

Mohammed Amin Markatia, who heads the Board of Director and Corporate Strategies, told me that to you have to treat launching a new sport is like a business, and you follow the same principles as you would for launching any products into a new or hostile market.

This is the five-step approach that has been used to bring World Class cricket to America.

Step 1 - Find the Right Product

There are many forms of cricket, from 5-day test matches right the way through to a faster paced one day game, but none of these formats were ever going to make it really in the US because they were still open to the accusations of being too complex, and too boring.

But in 2003 a new form of cricket was introduced, called Twenty20, this was a fast and furious version of cricket. Limited to just 120 pitches per team, it was a shortened version of the game lasting around 3 hours, and where players were trying to score on every single pitch.

Twenty20 has revitalized cricket in many existing cricket loving nations, and it was this version of cricket that would be used to crack the US market.

Probably the best way to describe t would be to say it's cricket meets Baseballs Homerun Derby.

Big shots, lots of action, lots of scoring and plenty of drama.

So now they had the right product.

Step 2 - Find the Right Location to Start the Launch

Even when you have a good product you still need to find the right market to launch it in. Cricket was played in many places across the US, California, New York and Arizona just name just a few. But CCUSA chose to focus its early efforts in Florida.

Why Florida? Because it has a large Carribean population, many of who are already cricket lovers. When you plant trees, you need to know that they are going to take root, and Florida was the best location to start to build a foothold.

It was also helpful that having a county with a large Caribbean population, they could also get the county to provide the first ever Cricket facility which would give them a firm foundation and help cricket to start to take roots.

Step 3 - Make a Big Splash

The stadium was built in 2008 and for the opening, CCUSA organized a four-team tournament where they invited 75 world class players to play.

This was a statement of intent; this was to show that cricket had landed in the US. It also got attention from the rest of the cricketing world which helped to boost national interest and media attention.

Step 4 - Build Interest Outside of Your Core Area

After the success of the 2008 tournament, in 2009 a domestic tournament was held where teams from around the country were invited to apply for a Domestic Twenty20 competition. 89 teams registered to play in that first tournament which was limited to just 16 teams. This helped to galvanize interest outside the Florida base and helped provide a vision for what cricket could become, which in turn boosted excitement and enthusiasm as well interest in the other areas.

This tournament, US Open Cricket, has now become and annual event, where there are regional qualifying games, US National Championship, at which the best players are identified who will then go on to be selected to represent their regional team in the competition.

Step 5 - Incentivise Customers and Boost Product Quality

The first tournament had prize money of $10,000, but this has now risen to $100,000. This has encouraged the regional teams to recruit top class players to not only boost their chances of winning but to help improve the quality of competition, and of the regional and local players. Playing with top class players will raise the playing level of everyone involved.

The better the product, the more attractive the product becomes and the more interest there is in the product.

This approach has seen the arrival of many top class teams now coming to play games in the US. Last month the Caribbean Premier League brought 4 of their teams, which were laden with world-class players, to play a round of matches in Florida at the US home of cricket.

And this weekend sees the first full international game being played on US soil before a 15,000 sell-out crowd.

This is huge progress in just ten years.

No one is suggesting that the job is done, but the foundation is now set for further expansion and growth.

Using an entrepreneurial approach has helped to achieve something we never thought would happen, and using these five steps have been crucial in launching a new product into a hostile market.

Published on: Aug 31, 2016