In 2011, Sri Lanka played against India in the finals of the Cricket World Cup hosted in Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai. The match began in the afternoon for fans in East Asia. However, Kenny Chandrasekera and Jeff Rosen, college roommates at the time, were living in the United States and are huge Sri Lanka fans.
“It was an eight-hour match. It was an ODI (one day international) that started at four in the morning our time,” said Rosen. “We woke up at 3 am and went to a guy’s house to watch the match. From that point, I was hooked.”
“We got breakfast at the halfway point,” Chandrasekera said.
Since college, the two friends have been watching cricket together. Chandrasekera first learned about cricket when he moved to Sri Lanka. In 1996, Sri Lanka won the world cup, so when Chandrasekera moved there the following year, he was drawn in by the large community of cricket fans. He immediately began learning and casually playing cricket at age eight.
Jeff Rosen learned about cricket while in college. He was an American sports fan who loved baseball, basketball, and football, but after seeing his friend elated watching Sri Lanka in the 2011 World Cup, Rosen quickly found cricket more entertaining and exciting than American sports.
“The reason I got more interested in cricket is that when you are batting, the stakes are so much higher on every single ball,” Rosen said. “You bat until you are out, and when you are out, you are done, so that means you can bat for hours, but any ball can end you.”
It creates an exhilarating dynamic compared to baseball, where a vital clean-up hitter will always bat three to four times a game.
“As a batter, you can score over 100 runs for your team. You can get out for zero, or you can get out for 150 runs,” Chandrasekera added.
In the United States, spectating cricket is not as simple as in other parts of the world. To watch matches, Chandrasekera and Rosen tune in late at night for a couple of hours to watch their favorite teams play. While, cricket is the second most popular sport in the world, behind soccer, with 2.5 billion viewers, its audience in the United States is largely limited to immigrated fans, so Chandrasekera and Rosen have to watch international games.
However, cricket is gaining traction in the U.S. USA Cricket and the American Cricket Enterprises plan on launching Major League Cricket in 2023 with six teams in major cities across the country. The league will consist of T20 games, which are similar to a baseball game's length, and want to combine domestic and international talent.
The growth of cricket in the United States has been slow, but a league in the future may grab the attention of American fans, allowing them to spectate live games and appreciate the parts of cricket that Rosen and Chandrasekera have enjoyed for years.
Image of Sri Lanka Cricket team celebrating.
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