Ricky Ponting has signed a two-year deal with Major League Cricket (MLC) side Washington Freedom, in what is the biggest scalp for the budding cricket league to date. The former Australian captain will succeed Greg Shipperd as the coach of the Washington team for the second season of the US-based Twenty20 competition.
The United States began its first major foray into the world of cricket with the MLC in 2023 - a T20 competition that has six teams from some of America's biggest cities. In the competition's first year, the majority of matches were sold out and the games took place largely in Texas and North Carolina.
The US-based competition is part of the ICC's push for cricket's expansion into the lucrative North American market, and Ponting's inclusion is seen as a major coup for both the MLC and the global sport of cricket. Ponting currently coaches the Delhi Capitals in the Indian Premier League and is also a popular pundit on the Seven Network's free-to-air cricket coverage.
Last week the cricket legend confirmed he was in talks to join Washington but needed to work through logistics. "We're not there yet, I haven't committed to anything just yet, but I've had some initial discussions (with Washington)," Ponting told SEN radio last week. "The time of the year sort of fits in OK for me, but I've got a really hectic off-season again. When I say off-season, there's no such thing as an off-season for cricketers anymore.
On Wednesday Ponting was announced as head coach and said he is excited by the opportunity. "Cricket is really on the rise in the US," Ponting said.
"I've been impressed by everyone involved at Washington Freedom and, while it's a bit surreal to be replacing my mate Greg Shipperd, there's probably no one better to set up a successful franchise. "I'm ready to build on his work as we look towards the coming season." Washington finished third on the ladder in the inaugural MLC competition before being eliminated by eventual champions MI New York in the playoffs.
Outside influence helps build cricket in the United States
India's influence in the US-based competition is clear as three out of the six teams share part of their names with IPL franchises. Australian states have also begun to form strategic partnerships with the US teams.
Cricket Victoria has aligned itself with the San Francisco Unicorns and Queensland Cricket recently announced a collaboration with the Seattle Orcas. Cricket NSW also shares a partnership with the Washington Freedom, the side Ponting will coach.
Aussie ODI World Cup winners Marcus Stoinis and Adam Zampa took part in the MLC's inaugural season. The second MLC begins only days after the T20 World Cup final, which is being held across the USA and Caribbean in June.
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