The Cricket World Cup Trophy on display Wednesday at Eisenhower...

The Cricket World Cup Trophy on display Wednesday at Eisenhower Memorial Park in East Meadow. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

This summer, Long Island will become — briefly — the center of the cricket world, when a temporary stadium at Nassau County’s Eisenhower Park will host eight matches of the International Cricket Council Men’s T20 World Cup.

But T20 cricket differs in some important ways from other versions of the game, and the tournament format may be unfamiliar to casual fans. Here are some questions and answers to get you acquainted.

When and where is the International Cricket Council Men’s T20 World Cup?

This year’s World Cup will run June 1-29. Teams from 20 nations will play matches across the United States and the Caribbean. Nassau County’s Eisenhower Park in East Meadow will host eight matches, including one June 9 between powerhouses India and Pakistan.

The tournament will open with teams divided into four groups of five teams each. After two weeks of group stage play, with each team playing four games, the top two teams from each group will advance. In the Super Eight Stage, each surviving team will play three games. The top four teams will advance to knockout semifinals and finals.

Most of the world’s top teams will play, including the greats: India, England, Australia, New Zealand and Pakistan. The United States and Canada will also play. Most teams are composed of full-time professional cricketers.

What is T20 Cricket?

T20, or Twenty20 cricket, is the shortest version of the game, lasting about three hours. The 20 refers to the number of “overs.” Each team gets 20, and then the match is finished. An over is the basic unit of play in cricket. When the bowler delivers six legal balls, he or she completes an over. Each team is trying to score as many runs as possible in its 20 overs. Other versions of cricket feature more overs and take longer to play. Test cricket, for example, can take days.

Introduced in the early 2000s, T20 has become the format of choice for leagues in India, Australia, the Caribbean and elsewhere, including the United States. Some of these leagues draw millions of viewers and threaten to eclipse the international matches for which the game is famous. In 2022, the Indian Premier League sold broadcasting rights to Disney and India’s Reliance Industries for more than $6 billion. Elite cricketers may play four T20 leagues per year across the world, taking home more than $3 million.

How else is T20 different?

One difference is the Powerplay over. For the first 6 overs of each team’s at-bat, only two fielders can be positioned outside a 30-yard semicircle in the middle of the field. This creates scoring opportunities for the batting team, said Wasim Khan, ICC’s general manager of cricket. To exploit them, teams lead with their hardest batters and give them “a bit of free license,” Khan said. They might, for instance, attempt to slug the ball past the field boundary, a high-risk, high-reward play. “You take as many risks as possible,” Khan said.

Ongoing construction of the T20 World Cup stadium being built...

Ongoing construction of the T20 World Cup stadium being built in Eisenhower Park for this summer's tournament. Credit: J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Another difference is that T20 matches employ a tiebreaking Super Over to decide a tied match. Think of overtime in football, or a final set tiebreaker in tennis: One play or one stroke of luck, good or bad, can be decisive.

Why should I watch?

Cricket is partly a duel between batter and bowler, each employing power and cunning. The fastest bowlers deliver the ball at over 90 miles per hour, giving the batter about half a second to react off the bounce. Others may deliver at half the speed but with spin of 2,000 revolutions per minute. But the cricket batsman can hit across 360 degrees, so he is not without options. He can probe holes in the fielders’ formations with low-risk singles and doubles or go big.

Most of the world’s best cricketers will play in this year’s Cup. Players to watch include India’s Virat Kohli, New Zealand’s Kane Williamson, Pakistan’s Babar Azam, Afghanistan’s Rashid Khan and England’s Ben Stokes.

They are playing for money and “national honor,” said Khan. “The World Cup is the pinnacle for them.”

How can I watch?

Tickets for most of the Eisenhower Park matches are still available, starting as low as $60 for Canada-Ireland on June 7 and Netherlands-South Africa on June 8. India-Pakistan is sold out. India-United States on June 12 has limited tickets, starting at $300.

Willow TV, a dedicated cricket channel, will show the matches. The channel charges $9.99 per month.

Why Nassau County?

ICC, cricket’s sanctioning body, believes there are “tens of millions” of cricket fans in the United States but that there’s potential for growth, said Chris Tetley, the council’s head of events. “We wanted to play in New York because a large number of the existing cricket fans are in New York,” he said. That includes about 90,000 Long Islanders of Indian or Pakistani descent and many more in the metro region overall, some of whom play recreationally or follow the game on television.

After meeting opposition last year in the Bronx, where local players said building a temporary stadium would squeeze out amateur matches, the ICC found an eager partner in Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman. Blakeman may not be an avid fan but said the World Cup will put Nassau on the world stage.

What’s the outlook for the U.S. side?

Challenging. The United States won its Cup berth as a tournament host, not as a qualifier, and Group A, where the United States will open, is a rough neighborhood inhabited by India, Pakistan, Ireland and Canada. They are, respectively, the first-, fifth-, 12th- and 20th-ranked teams in the world. The United States is ranked 23rd. India and Pakistan have some of the best players in the world, while no U.S. man appears on the ICC lists of top-ranked bowlers and batters.

But T20’s compressed format lends itself to upsets. One precedent is the 2022 Cup, when the Netherlands shocked South Africa.

U.S. bowler Ali Khan, speaking at an Eisenhower Park news conference last week, said the team was ready and willing: “We cannot wait to take the field.”

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