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India has to play big role in spreading game in US - Thakur

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Thakur affirms commitment to spreading game to the US (2:47)

BCCI President Anurag Thakur talks about their decision to take international cricket to the US and their aim in doing that. (2:47)

The BCCI has reaffirmed its commitment to make this past weekend's T20 series in the USA an annual event for India, with board president Anurag Thakur calling the series "a great success." Thakur also said the BCCI was eager to strengthen its connection with the US market.

"We need to come, I can't say many times a year, but yes on annual basis we have to be here if we really want to develop a market and want locals to play and participate, not only to watch cricket," Thakur told ESPNcricinfo. "We have to play a much much bigger role and India is up and ready to play that big role. BCCI is here to deliver and will make it a big success.

"I think there needs to be more focus in countries like US, Canada and others where we have a lot of population who is from Asia who understands cricket, could be more involved and can get more locals involved. So we are not here just to play a couple of games.

"We will come out with a long-term plan after this success, how to make it work in US, how to have more and more local people playing the game of cricket. If they can play in early 18th century, what made cricket go out of America? We have to bring it back. No other country than India can do that."

The two T20 internationals in Lauderhill were officially sold-out, though actual attendance figures are yet to be released. Saturday's crowd was near to the 15,000 capacity set for the event while Sunday's turnout was smaller and estimated to be close to the 12,000 range. On both days, the crowds were predominantly made up of adult male Indian supporters and few young families in attendance.

Ticket prices were steep for the matches, though, ranging from US $75 to $250. When asked if the BCCI would consider lowering them in the future to attract families and first-time fans, Thakur said they needed to meet the expenses for putting on the event to make it financially feasible.

"When you have got a quality product, you have to pay a good amount," Thakur said. "So we promise quality cricket. We are not making enough money out of it. In India we make much more money. Here it is just meeting out the expenses.

"So the issue is why should India be investing here? I'm not just investing here for the sake of money. I'm investing here because I believe as a true leader India should play an important role to make this game more popular. How do you do that? There should be more engagement. How do we do that? If I don't earn, how do I invest? I need to earn and invest at the same time."

The two T20Is in Florida were the third high-profile series in the USA in the last year. Shane Warne and Sachin Tendulkar's Cricket All-Stars tour of New York, Houston and Los Angeles in November was followed by the CPL's maiden visit to Florida in July. The Cricket All-Stars and CPL groups also conducted kids' clinics as part of their fan engagement efforts. The BCCI chose not to do anything similar and when asked if they would set up junior clinics on their next visit, Thakur said it was the responsibility of local administrators to get kids playing.

"I think it's very important that the locals should start playing more cricket, quality cricket, and they should have enough facilities available, but that has to be done by the local federation or association board," Thakur said. "BCCI can play a role, but can't take the control of American cricket."

Thakur also floated the possibility of playing at other venues around the USA in the future, but said the east coast was the most realistic option to satisfy the TV market in India. The matches in Florida started at 10am local time, 7.30pm in India, and playing in Chicago or on the west coast would not be practical with a 7 or 8am start.

Thakur also said that they were not sure of returning specifically to the Central Broward Regional Park in Lauderhill, the only ICC certified venue in the USA, for their next visit and they would be reluctant to use the Cricket All-Stars' model of drop-in pitches at baseball stadiums with unorthodox boundary configurations. Even if it allowed them access to the New York market, Thakur said the objective remained to avoid "exhibitions" and that cricket should be played "not casually but seriously", thus making a traditional stadium important to any plans.