Washington: Cricket will seek to reach out to the untapped American market when the sport’s most followed practitioners, India, lock horns with the West Indies in their maiden international game in the US here on Saturday.
The two Twenty20 Internationals over the weekend will be the first instance of India being involved in a competitive match in the USA. Days after India cruised to victory in the four-match Test series for their third successive triumph on the Caribbean soil, the team’s seasoned campaigner Mahendra Singh Dhoni will return to lead the side in the two limited overs games at the Central Broward Regional Park, the only purpose-built cricket stadium in the US.
It is the only ICC certified ODI standard stadium facility in the USA and hosted six Caribbean Premier League matches last month. The 14-member Indian team will see the return of as many as 11 regular players who were rested from the tour to Zimbabwe in May earlier this year. Dhoni, who retired from the longest format of the game in December 2014, is scheduled to play just seven more matches in 2016 two T20Is against the West Indies in USA and 5 ODIs against New Zealand in India.
Dhoni’s last assignment was against Zimbabwe where he led a young Indian team, sans the stars, to victory in both the ODIs and T20I series in Harare in June. The two-match series is going to be the first of what will develop into an annual event in the USA as part of efforts to reach out to new markets and audiences. Even though India won the Test series 2-0, players from the Test squad are coming with hardly any recent match practice because of the rain-affected fourth Test in Port-of-Spain where the last four days didn’t see any play. Indian coach Anil Kumble was, however, still optimistic about a good performance in what will be his first assignment with Dhoni.
“This is the first time that I’ll be working with MS, obviously we have played together over a long period of time and we had a chat on Thursday and on Friday as well,” Kumble said.
“I’m really looking forward to working with him and the new set of boys like (Jasprit) Bumrah who’s joined as well.
I’ve worked with him in the IPL so it’s nice to be a part of the India dressing room again,” he added.