Dallas delivers: Reflecting on a transformative T20 World Cup week in Texas

Hosting four spellbinding T20 World Cup matches and delivering a world-class spectacle for packed crowds and millions on television, the Grand Prairie Stadium’s role in the American story is potentially transformative for the game in the country.

By Daniel Beswick

“I needed to listen to Mozart for 45 minutes just to try and calm down,” USA fan PJ Goedhals reflected before making the trip back to his house in The Woodlands, three hours from Grand Prairie Stadium, after his side’s Super Over victory against Pakistan.

“I thought before the game that Pakistan had a history of beating anyone on their day, but (USA were) coming off momentum from Canada and Bangladesh (in a lead-in bilateral series).

“Pakistan (were) coming in a bit raw. It just takes one good or bad over either way, and there you go.”


In the USA, it’s customary for a patron to tip based on their satisfaction, but how could one lucky enough to witness four thrilling T20 World Cup matches ever repay their Grand Prairie hosts?

In the four-match slate, Dallas overdelivered. Raising the curtains and soaking up the earlier rain that threatened to curtail proceedings, the ground showcased the best of American and Canadian cricket to kickstart the tournament, underlined by a career knock from an inspired Aaron Jones to lift the hosts to victory.

Co-hosts too strong in tournament opener | Match Highlights | USA v Canada | T20 World Cup

Nepali fans packed the stands in a similar fashion, some coming as far as Australia, Japan and back home, only to be stifled by a Dutch unit blocking out the boisterous noise throughout the day.

Netherlands pulled off a six-wicket win over Nepal in the ICC Men's T20 World Cup Group D clash.

It was the Bangladeshi half of the support that won bragging rights against their Sri Lankan counterparts in a tense final match of the four, though it was the Super Over thriller between the USA and Pakistan that sent the world into raptures.

USA shock Pakistan in thrilling clash | USA v PAK | Urdu Highlights

The hosts’ win was picked up, read and seen across both American and global mainstream media as the likes of CNN, CNBC, The New York Times and Wall Street Journal reported the news to masses. Long time USA veteran Steven Taylor also got his flowers, after his sprawling one-handed catch to his right reached No.4 on ESPN Sportcenter’s Top 10.

Shock win sparks mass media coverage in US and around the world

In a hotbed for cricket in the USA, the purpose-built cricket ground was converted from a Minor League Baseball stadium in 2020.

The upper level behind home plate in the old complex was kept, and now stands on the backward square-leg/cover boundary. The lower bowl around the ground was rebuilt to fit dimensions of a cricket ground with an oval shape, though the boundaries towards the structures kept from the original baseball site are slightly smaller.

It proved to be the perfect venue to showcase the best in the world go about their business. Heaving crowds every day were treated to a spectacle. Nailed on cricket fans finding an old comfort. New fans finding a new vice.

The striking observation was an ironic one in a way, in that it felt like any other T20 World Cup match, with an atmosphere to match anywhere in the world. If a tornado threw up the ground like Dorothy and Toto in The Wizard of Oz, and it fell in Kansas, Cardiff or Kolkata, it would have felt almost exactly the same.

For those from the outside coming in, it was the subtlety of differences that made things so enjoyable. There were still fans anticipating run-out chances and a polite applause for a half-century, though it was complemented by chants of “U-S-A”, in front of a Texas sunset providing a new Instagram filter for world cricket.

Opposing batters falling to the force of USA bowlers were farewelled with “Bye Bye Bye” by N*Sync just to stick the boot in, as the lines for food were forced to turn corners with everyone desperate to wait for a break in play.

No fewer than half the 2024 teams were represented at the ground by fans, many whom tailgated three hours before the game, blasting songs in car stereos in a bid to rally their compatriots, whether they be the local Dallas diaspora, or those who had travelled from afar.

At the ground on opening night were Mahfuzur Rahman, Faiz Zuberi and Ahad Sheikh, who now call the Dallas-Fort Worth area home.

Faiz, a UX designer, summed up the surreal experience of a World Cup on American shores.

“I've been here what 10 years now and I would have never in my life through could have imagined having cricket being played right here at home, with so many people and all the international teams here.

“It’s crazy. It’s blowing our minds.”

Nationality to many is a feeling, fluid and ever-changing as one continues to learn their individual sense of self. Of course, with cricket being so sewn into the cultural fabric of the Commonwealth and the subcontinent, there is bound to be attachment for those who have brought their lives stateside.

We all find comfort in what we know, almost to a fault from cricket fans, who have almost been too pretentious to share their possessions. Though it was a young fan wearing a shirt that read “Virat” while wearing a cowboy hat that encapsulated a magical cross-pollination of cultures, a sign that maybe those who have been too proud to share their game with us are ready to spread the love.

Mahfuzur, a Dallas dentist, explains how cricket has been passed down the generations in the Dallas region.

“You see this amalgamation of different people raising their kids and kind of introducing stuff that they grew up with, which is a lot of fun.

“We see a lot of young kids that are Australian, Kiwi or South Asian and we want them to be proud of that culture, and have that interest.

“It's kind of surreal because we walked by the media tent and we saw the broadcast and it just looks like any other event that you'd watch on TV except you're like, ‘Oh, this is in our neighbourhood!’ It's kind of cool.”

Of course, there needs to be curiosity before cut-through, and exposure sometimes through good fortune. It was a challenge of paradigms for USA fan Phil Mielke, who found cricket by chance in France back in 2010.

The BBC was the only English-speaking television channel playing in his hotel, and the serendipitous moment of putting his feet up turned into a cricket obsession.

Having travelled to over 170 countries, Mielke has tied in USA cricket tours and campaigns in pathway to his globetrotting, on hand to see USA’s rise through the old World Cricket League divisions, T20 World Cup Qualifying campaigns and the new League 2 ODI system.

Sometimes being the only fan on hand to watch the team, Mielke was now one of over 7000 people watching his team beat superpowers Pakistan having travelled from Cleveland, though his love of the team has taken him much further.

“I tried and look into it more and found out the USA had a team. Coverage was obviously very difficult to find (back then), but followed them as much as I could.

“The biggest one (trip) was during the World Cricket League Division 3, USA were playing in Uganda.

“I decided to take the whole week and stayed in Entebbe and hired a driver to go back and forth and see all the matches.

“I’ve taken one day trips to Dubai and Scotland. And then travelled to just about every ground you can think of in the USA.”

“This is an absolute dream and a pleasure to see (USA in front of a packed house in Dallas).”

Though for all of this, one crucial ingredient was needed: the 22 yards in the middle of the ground.

Commentators, teams and supporters handed their applause to curator David Agnew and the ground staff, working day and night, sometimes in the midst of tornado warnings and heavy rain to deliver the best product possible.

Among wearing many hats in the Major League Cricket landscape and here at the World Cup, Justin Geale has been at the coalface in Dallas, putting in extra hours to ensure the ground could handle the rigours of a global event.

Ahead of the tournament there was immense pride for Geale, and a prediction that ultimately came true.

“Everything is special about the stadium.

“It took us about three years in the end. There were lots of challenges. We had to bring in special clay for the wicket.

“We’re hoping for some high scores. The outfield is beautiful. Our curator David Agnew from Australia is one of the world’s best, it’s a real good, flat, consistent track.

“We expect sixes and some big scores.”

From here, jumping on the barnstorming success of Dallas will no doubt be crucial in maintaining cricket’s foothold in the American sporting landscape, wherever they can fit in arguably the most competitive market in the world.

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Ahad Sheikh, Faiz Zuberi and Mahfuzur Rahman at Grand Prairie Stadium on day one of the tournament.

As Ahad, Faiz and Mahfuzur continue while watching the opening game spectacle, it’s the visual attention that could be most important in holding the attention from here forward.

“When we found out World Cup cricket was happening here, everyone started asking us questions,” Ahad said, overlooking the opening match from the concourse.

“If you look on social media and TV you see cricket posts now (from organisations focusing on American sports).

“It’s awesome and the exposure is great.”

Faiz continues: “We all grew up watching on our laptops, right? And we're like, ‘Hey one day, we'll go to England. One day we'll go to Sharjah, one day we’ll go to Australia.

“I don’t need to go to the MCG. I got Grand Prairie (I can go to). This is awesome.”

For the final piece of the puzzle in captivating the casual fan, the US national team thus far has held their end of the deal, in a top two Group A spot and a good chance to progress to the Second Round.

Reiterating his friends’ sentiments, Mahfuzur feels those once outside the cricket support circle will back their national team on this T20 World Cup journey and beyond.

“The American population just loves sports. They don't care what it is.

“If there’s enough exposure, if there's enough excitement, if there's enough grandeur in anything, they'll just join in.”

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