LIAM Plunkett has played at some of the most illustrious cricket grounds around the world.
The 2019 World Cup winner spent the majority of his 14-year England career competing in palatial facilities such as Lord’s in London and the MCG in Melbourne.
But when Plunkett, 37, took to the field in the heart of a New York ghetto with a jumbo jet flying close above his head, he understandably had some second thoughts about his decision to finish his playing days in the United States.
The fast bowler, whose wife is from Pennsylvania, relocated to the US in late 2021 to help launch Major League Cricket this summer and try to push cricket into the mainstream of American sports.
A further springboard will likely come in 2024 when the US co-hosts the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup with the West Indies.
Plunkett is hugely optimistic that Major League Cricket will become a long-term success, describing the startup league as a “ticking time bomb.”
His confidence comes despite the unexpected reality check he received about the professional game in the States while competing for Minor League Cricket’s Philadelphians franchise.
“Coming to America, I didn’t know what it would look like,” Plunkett tells The Sun U.S.
“My first cricket experience was a beautiful cricket ground in Raleigh, North Carolina.
“It was a beautiful facility and felt like a New Zealand cricket ground.
“But the next experience, which was unique, was we went to Queens, New York, and we went through a ‘hood to a cricket ground.
“At that point I was fielding at mid-off right next to the airport with an Emirates flight coming right across my head. I was thinking, ‘have I made the right decision, moving across here?'”
Plunkett quickly shrugged off that incident and will compete for the San Francisco Unicorns in the inaugural Major League Cricket season this summer, which is taking place at the 7,200-capacity Grand Prairie Stadium near Dallas, Texas, from July 13-30.
He was one of the several international players selected in the Draft, which was held at the iconic NASA Space Center in Houston on March 19.
Other big-name signings ready for Major League Cricket’s lift-off include Australians Aaron Finch, Marcus Stoinis and Mitchell Marsh, South Africans Anrich Nortje and Quinton de Kock, as well as Sri Lanka’s Wanindu Hasaranga.
The initial six teams are: the San Francisco Unicorns, Seattle Orcas, Washington Freedom, Los Angeles Knight Riders, Texas Super Kings and Mumbai Indians New York.
In time, all Major League Cricket teams will play in their home markets but due to the lack of infrastructure, the league is taking place solely at the newly-constructed Grand Prairie Stadium.
Major League Cricket takes place during the Southern Hemisphere offseason, allowing for the likes of Australian, South African and Indian players to take part in the new global T20 competition.
But English players are not allowed to take part as it clashes with the domestic white-ball season.
Plunkett, who no longer plays internationally for England, is hopeful that one day this situation will change.
“Selfishly I want the English guys to come across,” Plunkett says.
“I want England to be successful in the white-ball game but also on this side I want Major League Cricket to be a success here.”
Cricket is also pushing to become an Olympic sport in the Los Angeles Games in 2028.
Plunkett believes its inclusion at LA28 will prove another key step to the sport’s growth in the States.
“Hopefully we’re also involved in the Los Angeles Olympics as well so you have three big events,” he says, “and you can keep building and building and building.”