Florida: Ahead of the first of two T20Is against West Indies here, India captain Virat Kohli said that the United States of America is an important market to tap into as cricket continues to expand its global footprint.
India is set to play two T20Is against West Indies in Florida's Central Broward Regional Park Stadium, much like they did the last time they toured the Caribbean, in 2016.
Kohli said that international cricket in the USA is still at a nascent stage, but hoped that with more visits in the future; interest in the game would draw not just the Asian diaspora, but also other American communities to the sport.
"For now, I think it's all about creating that buzz and just getting people in to watch the games," Kohli said on the eve of the first T20I, which takes place on Saturday.
"The more we come here and play, obviously, the game is going to get more and more buzz around it, people are going to talk about it," he said.
"You see 15,000-20,000 people going to a place to watch something, obviously it should be important. Hopefully, in the years to come, people will have more interest.
Local people in America as well, not just the Asian community or the West Indian community, but the whole community, in general, will have more interest in the sport," Kohli said.
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"I think T20 cricket is something that can be understood and accepted in the American culture because of the length of the game, and it's quite entertaining as well. So I think for the sport to become global in many ways, a lot of interest here will go a long way in achieving that for the sport. Hopefully, in years to come, we'll have more tournaments and more series here, where people just come in and start understanding the sport and just having fun as they do in any other sporting event here," the India captain said.
As for the series itself, this game will mark India's return to the field after their heartbreaking exit in the semi-final of the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup 2019, where they lost to runners-up New Zealand, an ICC report said.
"The first few days after we exited the World Cup were quite difficult," Kohli said.
"Till the time the tournament got over, every time we woke up, it was the worst feeling in the morning. Then, through the day, you do things and sort of getting on with your life. We are professionals. We move ahead. Every team has to move on."
"So we are quite okay with what happened in the World Cup. Yesterday, the fielding session and the little bit of time we spent on the field was really good.
Everyone was excited, looking forward to just playing, just being on the field again. I think that's the best thing you can do as a team, just get on the park as soon as possible," he said.
As for their objectives once they step on to the field, India are now looking to build towards the next big ICC event, the T20 World Cup in Australia next year, and Kohli saw this series as an opportunity for some youngsters, such as Rishabh Pant, to make their mark ahead of the event, especially in the absence of seniors like MS Dhoni.
"It's a great opportunity for someone like Rishabh Pant to really play a lot of international cricket, show his credentials, really unleash his potential at this stage," Kohli said. "We know how much ability he has and we all want him to become a consistent performer."
"MS's experience is always going to be a very crucial factor, but having said that, some of these younger guys have a great opportunity ahead of them, and they should just look forward to it," Kohli added.