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Cricket

The D Magazine Crew Went to a Major League Cricket Match. It Totally Ruled.

In praise of a great atmosphere, a great game, and the unifying power of sports.
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There are a lot of flags at MLC matches. And whistles. Some drums, too. The atmosphere: good! Ron Gaunt/ SPORTZPICS for MLC

“Imagine,” my friend said, in an attempt to contextualize the ocean of flags, whistles, drums, and overall frenzy surrounding us last night in Grand Prairie, “that you’re way into basketball—and your country just got basketball.”

On a basic level, he was describing the biggest selling point of Major League Cricket, whose attempt to bring the world’s second-most popular sport to the United States—and North Texas, in particular—is the subject of my feature in our July issue. North Texas has one of the largest South Asian populations in the United States, and that community is cricket-rabid, with no significant outlet on this side of the Atlantic aside from the Caribbean. What happens when you provide one?

The answer, as we saw last night, is a sellout crowd of more than 7,000 people losing their minds for the better part of four hours as the Texas Super Kings (our new local team) took on Mumbai Indians New York. Our D Magazine contingent—Tim Rogers, Matt Goodman, Brian Reinhart, and yours truly—pegged the crowd to be well over 90 percent South Asian, which is in the ballpark of what every source I spoke with told me represents the national fan base. Per an MLC press release from over the weekend, six matches in the first 10 days reached capacity. A bunch of rich guys are building a cricket league with actual infrastructure, and now everyone is showing up.

But it would also be reductive, and unfair, to describe MLC’s appeal in relation to one group of people. Not everyone in the crowd was South Asian, after all. Take, for instance, the four of us. Tim, Matt, and Brian knew next to nothing about cricket going into last night. (Brian was there for the concessions, which he’ll write about soon enough.) Prior to reporting this story, I was in the same boat—and when it comes to understanding the action itself, still kinda sorta am. And we had a hell of a Monday night.

Some of this is due to the sport itself, which is faster, more vibrant, and, frankly, more dangerous than most people realize. But the experience in the stands is what stood out to me. It would be naïve to characterize any pro sporting event as organic—those that are tend to do poorly in the profit margins—but it was largely a blissful escape from the prepackaging that contaminates American sports. There were no promotions or sponsorships jammed into each break in the action. The video board stuck to stats and the occasional, too-infrequent replay. The PA announcer chimed in for names, lineups, key points in the match … and that’s about it. It won’t last forever—sports are big business—but in the here and now, MLC seems to understand the allure of a great sport and a great atmosphere.

Those two things transcend demographics. They’re why sports remain our most durable culturally unifying force. Yes, the South Asians who understand cricket and its rhythms set the tone of the crowd last night. But it didn’t take long for Matt to start blasting his canary-yellow Super Kings whistle. Or Tim to make excuses for his new sports hero, Texas captain Faf du Plessis, after an error at bat. Or all four of us to nod in approval at hard-earned runs and clap our hands at fours (when the ball rolls to the wall) and spring to our feet as fireworks exploded with each six (cricket’s version of a home run).

This was a blending of East and West, old fans and new. Concession stands offered samosas and burgers. The DJ blasted Hindi music and Kesha. Seasoned cricket watchers in the row ahead of us periodically turned to gently explain nuances of the game that we were too green to see.

And so we learned. We laughed. We celebrated. We chowed down. And thanks to a new (to us) sport put on by a new (to everyone) league, we had a wonderful night.

By the way, the Super Kings won 154-137.

Author

Mike Piellucci

Mike Piellucci

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Mike Piellucci is D Magazine's sports editor. He is a former staffer at The Athletic and VICE, and his freelance…

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