T20 world cup kicks off in texas, marking cricket’s major tournament debut in the U.S.

Cricket ventures into uncharted territory on Saturday as the first-ever major tournament to be staged in the United States kicks off in Texas with the opening game of the T20 World Cup.

This month-long festival of the fastest and most explosive form of cricket, shared between venues in Texas, Florida, New York, and the Caribbean, begins with the U.S. taking on Canada at the Grand Prairie Stadium on the outskirts of Dallas.

The event marks the opening skirmish of the first major International Cricket Council (ICC) tournament to be partially held in the United States. While most of the tournament will unfold in the Caribbean, 16 group stage games in the 20-team tournament will be played on American soil. The highlight of the group stage is set to be a clash between India and Pakistan, scheduled to take place in Long Island, New York.

The rest of the tournament, including the Super Eight stage, the semi-finals, and the final, will be held in the West Indies, culminating at Kensington Oval in Bridgetown, Barbados.

Although cricket is widely played at a recreational level in the United States, particularly in the states chosen for the games, organizers are realistic about the chances of “converting” mainstream American sports fans. Instead, they expect that large immigrant communities from cricket-loving backgrounds, especially fans from India, will pack the stadiums.

“I think, number one, we want to celebrate those that are already fanatical lovers of cricket. They deserve to see the best players in the world come into their backyard and have that chance,” said T20 World Cup USA, Inc. chief executive Brett Jones. “Number two, I think it’s about spiking curiosity in the game,” he added.

The ICC also views the tournament as a stepping stone towards cricket’s return to the Olympics at the Los Angeles 2028 Games, using the T20 format. Major League Cricket, a T20 tournament launched last year, stands to benefit from any growth in interest in the big-hitting, spectacular shortest form of the game.

This year’s T20 World Cup also offers opportunities for newer cricket nations to compete on the big stage. In recent years, the sport has expanded beyond its traditional strongholds, with Ireland and Afghanistan earning full Test status. The T20 format is seen as ideal for growing the game, and this edition will feature three T20 World Cup debutants: the USA, Canada, and Uganda.

Nepal, Papua New Guinea, and Oman are among other nations relatively new to the big stage, looking to make their mark with potential upset wins. The tournament’s structure includes four groups of five teams each, with only the top two advancing, making the group stage a critical weeding-out process.

India, winners of the inaugural T20 World Cup in 2007, are favorites, bolstered by a lineup of stars from the Indian Premier League. Australia, reigning champions in the ODI World Cup and World Test Championship, are also strong contenders despite leaving out veteran batsman Steve Smith. Their squad still boasts big-hitting David Warner and pacemen Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins.

Defending champions England, without 2022 star Ben Stokes due to fitness concerns, showed their readiness with a seven-wicket victory over Pakistan in a warm-up match in London. Co-hosts West Indies, champions in 2012 and 2016, hope to leverage their familiarity with local conditions.

Other potential contenders include South Africa, New Zealand, and Pakistan, all of whom aim to make a significant impact in a tournament known for its surprises.