Mar 14, 2024 - News

Washington Freedom brings cricket frenzy to D.C.

Illustration of a cricket wicket, ball and bat styled as a deconstructed US flag

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The D.C. area's professional cricket team — the Washington Freedom — is part of a new league trying to grow the sport in the U.S.

Why it matters: Cricket is the globe's second-most-popular sport, and it is having a resurgence in America, especially thanks to immigrant communities that hail from South Asia.

State of play: The Freedom pick up play again in July, after competing in Major League Cricket's inaugural season last summer.

  • The league includes teams from Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Seattle, and Dallas.
  • All matches currently take place at Grand Prairie Stadium near Dallas, a cricket-specific venue that seats 7,200 people.

Zoom in: The Freedom hopes to have home-field advantage soon. They are planning to construct a stadium at George Mason University fit for cricket and baseball.

  • The venue, with a 360-degree grass field, would fit 7,000 to 10,000 people at the Fairfax campus site. (Some neighbors worried about traffic are opposing the stadium proposal, NBC4 reports.)

The intrigue: One of the world's greatest cricketers of all time is the new head coach of the team. Australian great Ricky Ponting is joining the Freedom from Indian Premier League's Delhi Capitals.

  • "Obviously everybody's shocked how we were able to get him," the team's owner, Sanjay Govil, told Axios. "Ricky Ponting is like the Messi [of cricket]."
  • Govil is a local entrepreneur who was born in India and lives in Maryland. He founded two companies in the tech space.

Fun fact: Cricket, invented in England and spread across the British Empire, was once one of the most popular sports in the U.S., according to PBS. Baseball overtook it and became America's pastime during the Civil War.

"We probably have thousands of people playing every weekend," Govil says about the sport in the DMV, especially in the suburbs — like Germantown, Md., — where cricket fields have proliferated.

  • There are many forms of the sport such as tennis ball cricket.
  • The professional league plays T20 cricket. And. the ICC Men's T20 World Cup will be hosted by the U.S. and West Indies in June, preceding the league's start and setting up two months of cricket frenzy in the U.S.

What's next: Govil wants to build a local fanbase on par with other growing sports like soccer.

  • But first: "We have to make sure we get top-notch players from the world."

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