American Cricket Enterprises, Major League Cricket, and USA Cricket have entered into a ‘long-term strategic partnership’ with the Knight Riders Group. The deal will see the Knight Riders contingent invest financially while collaborating with ACE leadership to plan and roll out the ambitious MLC, currently set for 2022.
Along with the welcomed investment, the news should increase MLC’s credibility in the eyes of many curious expats in the United States, as well as those who follow franchise T20 cricket around the world. Shah Rukh Khan, the majority owner of The Knight Riders Group, is one of the world’s biggest entertainment superstars, and he’s utilised that fame over the years to amplify the Knight Riders brand.
Khan has owned the Kolkata Knight Riders franchise since 2008 via his production and distribution company Red Chillies Entertainment, along with actress and 1984 Miss India Juhi Chawla and her husband Jay Mehta via their own Mehta Group conglomerate. Since then, the Knight Riders have won two IPL championships (2012, 2014), and have recorded the third most total wins in the competition’s history.
In 2015 Red Chillies and Mehta Group purchased Trinidad and Tobago Red Steel, rebranding to Trinbago Knight Riders following their 2015 championship season. Trinbago has gone on to win three more championships under the Knight Riders banner, all within the last four years. The Knight Riders empire, known to carry many of the same players across the two competitions, made history this past season as KKR signed TKR’s Ali Khan, the first USA cricketer to get his start with the IPL.
A big part of TKR’s success these past three seasons has been the stellar power play and yorker bowling of Khan, who nearly fell through the cracks on his way to the USA national men’s team. The Minor League/Major League Cricket system should help keep talented domestic players from the fringes of obscurity.
“A big part of the plan is to help develop cricket at the grass roots level and develop scouting and talent development plans,” KKR and Red Chillies Entertainment CEO Venky Mysore told Emerging Cricket. “This will definitely unearth talent similar to Ali Khan, who has been part of the Knight Riders family already.”
Along with the development of talent in the United States, cracking into the unequalled American pro sports fan base is a priority for Mysore and the Knight Riders brand. “Clearly the US is already a big consumer of cricket content, mainly through the diaspora. However, for T20 cricket to become a mainstream sport and for it to scale, it has to catch the imagination of the local American sports lovers at large. Given the involvement of several key people who are already entrenched in American sports and other significant businesses, we believe that over time T20 cricket will become very popular.”
The news continues an eventful time for USAC and MLC, having recently announced a new stadium in Dallas. MLC is planning franchises in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Dallas, Atlanta, New York, and Chicago. The Dallas stadium, slated for renovations in 2021, checks off one of those, but it will be difficult to secure the remaining five in time for the 2022 launch. This would mean the MLC could initiate in three sites: Dallas, Ft Lauderdale, Florida, and Morrisville, North Carolina. This is a likely contingency plan confirmed by Mysore to ESPNcricinfo.com.
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