USA wants to excel in every sport it plays, including cricket: MLC team Washington Freedom’s owner Sanjay Govil | Cricket News – Times of India

NEW DELHI: Washington Freedom reached the Eliminator of the Major League Cricket (MLC) last season but lost to MI New York (MINY). However, team owner Sanjay Govil is confident that new captain Steve Smith will lead the team to glory in the second edition of the tournament beginning July 5, while expressing optimism about their chances of success this time around.
Washington will begin their campaign against MINY on Saturday, July 6, at Church Street Park in Morrisville.
Govil, who is also the founder and chairman of Infinite Computer Solutions, spoke to TimesofIndia.com in an exclusive interview about the Washington Freedom team, captain Smith, pace sensation Saurabh Netravalkar, cricket in the USA and much more.

What are your opening thoughts on Washington Freedom?
We are part of the six teams in the MLC. The concept of MLC was actually started by Satyan Gajwani, Vice Chairman of the Times Internet, and the former founders of Willow. They got it going, and now six teams are part of it. We own the Washington Freedom team, based in the US capital. We are very excited about our second season and feel that we have a great team. We have Ricky Ponting as our coach and Steve Smith as our captain. Our roster includes both international and domestic players.
The format allows six international players and five domestic players. We have notable international players like Travis Head, Rachin Ravindra, Glenn Maxwell, and, as mentioned, Steve Smith. Our bowling lineup includes Marco Janssen, Lockie Ferguson and others. On the domestic side, we have Saurabh Netravalkar, who has become a sensation (through his T20 World Cup heroics for USA) and Andre Gaus. We also have Amila Aponso from Sri Lanka.

We have a very competitive team, which was our goal. All teams in the MLC are highly competitive, and our objective was to ensure we put out a product that is meaningful and competitive, not overshadowed by the IPL teams. Last year, we made it to the playoffs, and this year we’re taking it one game at a time with the same goal in mind.
Is cricket, and T20 cricket in particular, gaining popularity in the US?
Absolutely, it is becoming big. A recent CBS news story showed that over 35 million people are watching cricket in the US, making it the fifth largest cricket media market for the ICC. The India-Pakistan match held in New York, along with other matches in New York, Dallas and Florida, has significantly increased awareness…the overall impact has been substantial.
USA’s win against Pakistan was a watershed moment for USA Cricket, generating a tremendous amount of awareness, publicity and coverage. I equate that to the US victory over Russia in ice hockey during the Olympics. Suddenly, people are taking notice. The US has a huge appetite for sports. Despite having the NFL, NBA, NHL and many other leagues, there is always a demand for more sports because they serve as great unifiers and promote team building.

India’s recent win in the T20 World Cup is a perfect example of teamwork, with every player contributing to the victory. If any one player had not contributed, it could have led to a loss. This aspect of cricket, where everyone has specialized roles and works together like a well-oiled machine, is truly remarkable.
How do you measure the T20 World Cup success in the US as co-hosts?
I think it was very successful. I wish the stadium they built (in Nassau County) had survived because it would have been a great opportunity for young kids to grow up and play cricket there for generations to come. There are so many academies, and it would have been wonderful to see the stadium where the first India-Pakistan match in America was held. Nonetheless, it was a great opportunity to showcase cricket.
Leading into MLC and the Olympics in 2028, we have some really exciting developments happening. I would love to see a Women’s World Cup in the US at some point soon. We are building stadiums across the country, which we desperately need to propel the sport further. We are well on the path to achieving that. In every city, you can see the progress cricket lovers have made in terms of having fields customized for cricket. This (cricket) is now becoming, I wouldn’t say mainstream, but it’s getting there.
How does cricket fit into the business landscape in the USA?
So, the good news is that everyone involved in the sport is willing to invest in the business. I always believe that passion is the most important thing. If you have passion, everything else follows. If you start a business with the sole intent of making money, you will never succeed, in my opinion. Every idea has a passion behind it. You execute that idea, and business and profits follow. That’s what every owner is doing; they are all willing to make the investment and have been making investments. In MLC, we see a very promising path to success over the next few years.
What is the interest of advertisers in a country where NBA, NFL and MLB rule?
We have already started to get good sponsors. Advertisers are great. For example, we have Verizon as our sponsor, which is one of the biggest brands in America. I know other teams also have very good sponsors. So the interest is definitely picking up more and more from an advertising perspective. Advertising dollars are invested to target a certain audience, and as we become more mainstream and reach beyond the diaspora from cricket-loving countries, we (will) start seeing more and more advertising dollars flow in.
If there are 40 million people who watch cricket, that’s a very significant segment of the US population. Moreover, this segment of the population is not just large, but also very successful. They are among the highest taxpayers in the country, making their economic impact substantial. We only see this growing.

When I look at other sports leagues like football and the NHL, I don’t have the exact numbers for how many people follow those sports, but it’s not the entire US population. Whether it’s 40 million, 50 million, or 60 million, I don’t have that data. However, 40 million people is not a bad start for any sport.
What motivated Infinite Solutions to invest in a cricket team?
It was more luck and opportunity that led to this. For the record, Infinite Solutions does not own the cricket team; they are two separate, independent entities. Infinite Solutions is a sponsor of the cricket team. It’s the passion that drives us. We all grew up watching and playing cricket.
I grew up in Delhi, where my father was a professor at IIT Delhi, so I spent my childhood on the campus. We didn’t have a lot of money, but we had all the facilities to play sports. Inside the IIT campus, there were tennis courts, cricket fields, swimming pools and badminton courts. We were exposed to every sport, but cricket was always at the top.
The ICC has granted MLC List-A status. What are your thoughts on this?
Thanks for bringing that up. The T20 World Cup, the List-A status and the Olympics all show the ICC’s commitment to the USA as a market and as a future cricketing powerhouse. We are very grateful for that. Having List-A status motivates players to perform at their best regardless. They are professionals. Even last year, they gave their all, playing in this heat and all the challenges. It’s extra motivation knowing that their statistics count towards their international numbers, which is great.
Your thoughts on USA’s cricket sensation Saurabh Netravalkar, who left an impact on the T20 World Cup…
He is a once-in-a-generation kind of individual. He is part of the Washington Freedom team and played Under-19 cricket for India alongside players like KL Rahul. At one point, he decided, for good reasons, to step away from cricket and pursue academics. He attended Cornell University, an Ivy League school, where he completed his master’s degree. He then moved to Silicon Valley to work in technology before rediscovering his passion for cricket and excelling in it. He even dismissed Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma with his bowling skills.


Aside from cricket, he is also a superb musician. We recognized his talent before he gained widespread recognition, and we have a special fondness for him because he is such a genuinely nice person. His wife is equally kind-hearted. Despite achieving great success in the World Cup and reaching the peak of his career, whenever I called to congratulate him, he always answered the phone and spoke to me. He is a superb team member—calm, composed, humble, and grounded. He exemplifies kindness and is a multi-talented individual.
With cricket set to be part of the Olympics in LA 2028, how significant will that be for the sport in the US?
Huge! I think there’s going to be a lot of impetus now for dollars coming in to promote cricket in the US. The US wants to excel in every sport it plays, and there’s already so much infrastructure built here in terms of academies, etc. For example, in our team, we have a player who was born in the US and was a reserve for the US national team. That by itself is a significant statement. We’re going to see more and more of such developments.
There’s a lot of interest because these kids have grown up watching their parents play cricket and watching cricket matches at 3 a.m. It’s already ingrained in their muscle memory. They see a future in cricket where they have a chance to become the next Virat Kohli or Rohit Sharma, and there are many avenues for them — playing in the IPL, MLC, other leagues, representing the USA team and securing big sponsorships. There’s a clear path now, and we’re very grateful to the ICC, the Times Group, and everyone else involved for their support.

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