The newest professional sports franchise in North Texas featured players of whom most of you have never heard, playing a sport for which you likely don’t know the rules, wearing home unis unlike any other area franchise ever.
And yet they sold out their first game.
The Texas Super Kings made their Major League Cricket debut Thursday night in a Grand Prairie stadium formerly used for independent-league baseball. When one of the home team’s batters hit a boundary (similar to a home run in baseball), the crowd erupted, vigorously waving yellow flags. Many sported the team colors, which were clearly not copied from the Cowboys, Rangers, Mavericks, Stars, or other local franchises (the WNBA’s Dallas Wings probably come closest).
The reason for the color choices parallels the reason for the sellout of close to 7,000 people. The Grand Prairie-based team is one of four in the MLC with investment from an Indian Premier League club. The Chennai Super Kings (IPL defending champions, fyi) wear yellow, thus so do their counterparts 9,000 miles away.
South Asia is a hotbed of the sport and that diaspora likely supplied many of the attendees. Seven overs into the game, I spotted a contingent of young men in their green Pakistan jerseys just entering the stadium as fans continued to arrive throughout the early going.
The Lone Star State version of the Super Kings benefits because of the global popularity of its five-time IPL champion parent. Most of the yellow jerseys in the crowd represented the Indian version of the Super Kings. But I did see a man wearing an Andy Dalton Cowboys jersey – since the league chose to assign geographic identities to their teams, they no doubt hope at least some area sports fans decide to add this local team to their Cowboys or TCU allegiances (I saw a Kansas City Chiefs jersey, too – wasn’t sure what to make of that).
“We felt like we were definitely the home team,” said Super Kings batter David Miller, who produced a team-high 61 runs Thursday.
Winning never hurts. 181 runs and some stellar bowling late in the contest by Mohammad Mohsin led to a win for Miller’s squad in Major League Cricket’s first-ever match. They played a team from Los Angeles but don’t expect a revenge-hungry LA crowd if the two teams meet again in the playoffs. North Texans who embrace their new cricket side are fortunate. They’re actually the only market that will get to see its squad play a home game. The tournament’s first campaign runs only through July 30, and in addition to Grand Prairie Stadium, only Church Street Park in cricket-friendly Morrisville, North Carolina will host games.
MLC expects a sellout on Monday when Texas plays again and expects to get close Saturday, too. Andre Russell, whose 55 runs led the opposition Knight Riders, suggested, “The crowd’s going to go home and check the schedule and make sure the next game they are present.”
The league wants to drive interest in the sport in the world’s largest commercial market. They’ve brought in overseas standouts like the Jamaican Russell and the South African Miller, but each roster must also include one under-23 American along with nine other domestic players. U.S. fast bowler Ali Khan, who lives in Texas, bowled the first-ever ball in an MLC game.
“To be standing straight, caps off for the American national anthem, was emotional for me,” said Russell, aware that an opportunity to begin a new sporting competition is rare.
“The American flag was massive to start with,” said Miller of the huge stars and stripes, borrowed from the Texas Rangers baseball team, that covered the field during the singing of the Star-Spangled Banner.
He also believes that the U.S. can develop good cricket players. “There’s a lot of talent. This league will enhance that,” Miller suggested. “American cricket is going to come out good.”
Certainly at this point when most Americans think of cricket, they think of a six-legged creature like the one who seized the moment and hopped onto Miller’s table during the postgame press conference. MLC wants to change that. Expanding one’s horizons can lead to positive experiences one might not have considered before. Maybe Americans will try a new brand of beer at a MLC game (I wanted to but I was working). Maybe they’ll get a sample like I did of rice grown near the Himalayan Mountains by an Indian company and flavored with Mexican seasoning. Maybe they’ll check out a sport with some similarities and differences to other bat-and-ball games that a whole bunch of the rest of the world loves. North Texas is fortunate that they’ll have the opportunity within driving distance.
Maybe they’ll even decide they like yellow jerseys.