Nadella, Narayen among tech CEOs investing in cricket’s American dream

Team USA defeats Pakistan in historic victory at the Cricket World Cup

Cricket may not be as popular a sport in the US as it is elsewhere in the world, but some high-profile CEOs and investors are trying to change that.

Like Men’s T20 Cricket World Cupco-hosted by the US for the first time, with increasing fanfare, investors have pumped nearly a billion USD into their American ambitions.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen is among the executives investing in the new US professional league, Major League Cricket. Other cricket investors include Iconic Ventures, Madrona Venture Group and executives from Google.

“What excites me is whether cricket can become a mainstream sport in America,” said Soma Somasegar, venture capitalist and managing director at Madrona.

Somasegar and Nadella are among the main owners of the Seattle cricket team, called the Orcas. They are also investors in the overall league.

“Satya [Nadella] and I’ve been talking about bringing cricket to America for many years,” Somasegar told CNBC.

Nadella is such an avid cricket fan that Microsoft has a cricket field at its campus in Bellevue, Washington.

Monank Patel of the United States national cricket team celebrates his half-century (50 runs) during the ICC Men’s T20 Cricket World Cup match between USA and Pakistan at Grand Prairie Cricket Stadium in Dallas on June 6, 2024 .

Matt Roberts | ICC | beautiful images

“A lot of us immigrants grew up playing this sport,” Somasegar said. We study and watch cricket. Repeat”.

In total, nearly $850 million is currently being invested to build a viable cricket league in the United States, people familiar with the funding said. The people asked not to be named because funding information is confidential.

Currently, there are six professional teams in Major League Cricket, with each team expected to spend approximately $75 million to $100 million in the coming years. That includes the cost of assembling a team, hiring the right talent and building a stadium that can host live cricket matches.

Adding to the fanfare is the T20 World Cup, which is being held at three venues in the US and several venues in the West Indies throughout June.

On Thursday, in a stunning blow, the US team defeated Pakistan in a match held near Dallas. Fans are now counting down to the highly anticipated match between India and Pakistan on Sunday at the newly developed Nassau County Stadium in New York.

The last time India and Pakistan faced each other, over 300 million people in India watched to watch the match, according to The New York Times.

Ticket agency StubHub said the average ticket price for Sunday’s game was $1,300. The company said the average price for the tournament’s remaining 54 matches is $120.

Venture capitalist Anurag Jain, part owner of Major League Cricket team the San Francisco Unicorns, said the US national team is largely made up of players in the league.

“The goal is to make cricket a mainstream sport,” said Satyan Gajwani, vice president of Times Internet, the digital arm of Times of India. He heads Willow TV, which has exclusive streaming rights to cricket in North America, including the T20 World Cup.

Gajwani is also one of the investors in the American National League. He said his team is going after loyal fans from South Asia living in the US.

“Basically, you have 5 million really passionate fans who love cricket,” Gajwani told CNBC, referring to the South Asian community in the US.

He added that expatriates from the UK and Australia living in the US are also big consumers of cricket.

According to research from Indiaspora, a nonprofit community of Indian leaders around the world, the average South Asian has the highest total income of any ethnic group in the US.

“That leaves a lot of discretionary income available to spend on sports and entertainment,” said MR Rangaswami, founder and chairman of Indiaspora.

Rangaswami, who said he would be at Sunday’s game, acknowledged that the US sports scene is tough to crack, with Americans passionate about basketball and soccer. He said a potential entry point could be through fans of baseball, which has some similarities to cricket.

– CNBC Jessica Vang contributed to this report.


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