Pro cricket eyed for U.S.

LONDON -- Cricket's governing body in the United States wants to create an elite Twenty20 competition along the lines of the lucrative Indian Premier League.

The USA Cricket Association announced Thursday it hopes "top-class international cricket" will finally take root in America by launching the first professional competition, the USA Premier League.

The first steps were taken by inviting proposals from potential organizers, sponsors and broadcasters in a country dominated by football and baseball. Proposals must be received by Aug. 7.

A Twenty20 game is a shortened version of cricket, completed in about 3½ hours to bring it closer to the length of other sports played in the United States.

"With the proliferation of Twenty20 cricket worldwide, we feel an American audience is more adept at accepting that format rather than the longer more classical version of the game," USACA executive secretary John Aaron told The Associated Press by telephone. "There is certainly a solid fan base there. We are trying to make the US a cricket destination for teams and players."

Aaron said the league would start in 2011. Discussions have already begun with ESPN, which is owned by The Walt Disney Co. The USACA hopes Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., will help attract cricket fans to the country's only international standard field.

"We want to make it a family thing," Aaron said.

Rushmans, an international sports event management company based in England, has been appointed as commercial adviser.

Nigel Rushman said he is confident, with the right partners, that the USA can host a world class Premier League and attract large television and online audiences.

The USACA said it wants to unlock the sport's potential in a "massive market" and use the revenues from the new league to help spread cricket across the U.S.

"The commercial potential of cricket in the United States is widely recognized and that was underscored by the number of approaches USACA has received from many significant and prestigious organizations ranging from broadcasters to promoters and sports marketing companies," Rushman said in a statement.

Organizers hope to build on the existing passion for cricket in ex-patriot communities from the Caribbean, the Asian subcontinent and other traditional cricket playing nations like England.