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America’s Major League Cricket Is Luring Top Australian Players

When it became clear that America’s Major League Cricket had influential and well-heeled backing, with a big salary cap for its six teams to entice top players from all over the world, there was an expectation that an Australian superstar would eventually be lured.

Steve Smith, one of cricket’s greatest ever batters and former Australia captain, has not been shy of professing his love for the U.S. where he and his wife Dani announced their engagement in 2017.

He has an apartment in New York and notably spent some time there during his year-long suspension for cheating, where he was infamously photographed by Australia’s tabloid press sitting alone at a bar in Manhattan.

The flirtation started well before MLC was launched last July. “The U.S. has been a market that cricket’s been trying to get into for some time. So yeah, I think it’d be interesting to see how it goes,” said Smith in 2022.

Smith was unable to play in MLC’s splashy opening season due to Australia Ashes tour of England, but he has been confirmed in the upcoming second edition in a major boost for a tournament hoping to build on the back of a successful debut.

Smith will be playing for Washington Freedom, where he will link up with up World Cup-winning teammates Travis Head, who is something of a cult favorite amongst his Australian compatriots, and explosive batter Glenn Maxwell. He will play under legendary Australia batter Ricky Ponting, who will coach a Freedom side that lost in last season’s playoffs to eventual champions MI New York.

While Smith is not a great T20 batter – he might not even make the cut for Australia’s squad at the upcoming World Cup co-hosted by the U.S. – the 34-year-old remains one of cricket’s headliners and biggest names.

There aren’t too many more famous current cricketers with Smith adding to the gravitas of the MLC, which has had more than $100 million invested aided by influential Indian businessmen some of whom are ensconced in Silicon Valley.

Smith is part of a growing link between the MLC and Australian cricket. Cricket New South Wales – Smith’s home state – has a “strategic” partnership with the Freedom franchise, while Cricket Victoria, similarly, have ties with San Francisco Unicorns.

MLC has smartly partnered with two of cricket’s powerhouses Australia and India. While England, the other power, looks on warily with MLC played during the heart of its cricket season, Australia and India have embraced a pro T20 league hoped to make inroads into the world’s biggest sports market.

India’s footprint is obvious with three MLC franchises owned by Indian Premier League franchises. Thus their names are strikingly familiar: Texas Super Kings (Chennai Super Kings), Los Angeles Knight Riders (Kolkata Knight Riders) and MI New York (Mumbai Indians).

But Indian megastars are not allowed to play in any T20 franchise league outside of the billion-dollar IPL. Conversely, Australian players are allowed to hop on the T20 merry-go-round so long as it does not clash with their international commitments.

Australia has an open schedule in July, so it’s no surprise that a slew of their top players have jumped at the chance to sign in the MLC.

But no one is more giddy than Steve Smith, whose long-held dream of playing in the U.S. is about to be realized.