Americans already gather in bars every week to watch European soccer matches.
Will they one day do the same for cricket?
The folks at Hotstar are betting on it. For the first time, the streaming service, which launched in the U.S. in September, will be beaming live matches from the Vivo Indian Premier League (IPL), an eight-team circuit that began play in 2008. For $9.99 per month — the first month is free — viewers can enjoy all IPL matches with commentary in six different languages (including English and Hindi), when the season starts in April.
“Our love for the game really comes through,” said Ipsita Dasgupta, Hotstar’s president of strategy and incubation, a New Yorker before moving to India 10 years ago. “We’d love to see the sport achieve the same level of popularity here that soccer has.”
To celebrate the launch, and the already-thriving cricket community in the Big Apple — there are formal and informal matches in New York parks most weekends — Hotstar is hosting an event Saturday afternoon in Gravesend, Brooklyn, called “Cricfest.” The sold-out show, at MatchPoint NYC, will feature appearances by two of the sport’s legends — Anil Kumble, who played at the highest levels in England and in the IPL before retiring in 2010; and Harbhajan Singh, who still plays in the IPL with Chennai Super Kings. Attendees will also be able to sample street food from each of the eight Indian cities in the league and enjoy live entertainment.
“Cricket is actually quite big here, thanks to the large diaspora from cricket-playing regions like India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, England, Australia and the West Indies,” Dasgupta said. “But it’s the casual fans we are most interested in, and we are constantly innovating to make their experience engaging and immersive.”