Monday, December 4, 2023

Seattle dives into professional cricket with new franchise, the Orcas

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The Seattle sports scene will be home to another franchise — and sport — as the Orcas are set to represent the Emerald City in Major League Cricket (MLC).

Seattle will be one of six U.S. cities with a team in the MLC, alongside Dallas, San Francisco, New York City, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C.

The Seattle Orcas’ lead investor group includes Satya Nadella (Chairman and CEO of Microsoft), Sanjay Parthasarathy (a former senior executive at Microsoft and Avalara), Soma Somasegar (Managing Director of Madrona Ventures), Samir Bodas (Co-founder and CEO, Icertis), and Ashok Krishnamurthi (Managing Partner, GreatPoint Ventures).

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Nadella and Somasegar are also part of the Seattle Sounders FC ownership group.

“We are super excited to bring world-class cricket to the Pacific Northwest, which has a vibrant and passionate community of cricket and sports fans,” Somasegar said in a prepared statement. “The Orca’s name and the team’s colors pay tribute to our local community that has helped build that spirit of support. We are thrilled to partner with the Delhi Capitals’ Co-Owner GMR Group to help us launch with the strongest possible team this summer.”

The team’s emblem prominently features an Orca, a symbol of the West Coast for many thousands of years, according to the Georgia Strait Alliance, as the animal has been a symbol for many local Indigenous peoples for belief systems, art, and storytelling. Still, the franchise made sure to include a light-green highlight, a throughline connecting all of the sports teams centered around the Puget Sound region.

The Puget Sound is home to four species of Orcas. According to Feb. 2021 data, the Southern Resident Orca population has decreased to just 75, while the Northern Resident Orca population grew to approximately 240-260.

Bigg’s Killer Whales‘ population is increasing — up to approximately 400 whales — while there are roughly 300 Offshore Orcas still in the region.

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“We see America as the new frontier for cricket’s growth globally, and the Pacific Northwest provides an incredible opportunity for us to bring the resources of GMR Sports to the region and help the Seattle Orcas build a team competing for championships,” said Kiran Kumar Grandhi, managing director and CEO of GMR Group, a co-owner of Delhi Capitals.

The first-ever player draft for the Major League Cricket Twenty20 tournament will take place March 19, held at the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, with the tournament set to start in July.

While Seattle will not host any matches during its debut season, the Seattle Orcas are collaborating with King County and the City of Bellevue to build a Cricket Community Park. Included in the construction would be a 20-acre facility with the intention to house up to 6,000 people for future Seattle Orcas’ games and other cricket events.

Cricket is the world’s second-most popular sport after soccer, attracting a total global audience of more than 2.5 billion viewers.

Seattle has had previous stints with professional cricket, including 2021’s formation of the Seattle Thunderbolts, a local team that participated in the Toyota Minor League Cricket Championship. The tournament featured 27 teams in 21 U.S. cities participating in more than 200 matches over a 10-week span throughout the summer of 2021.

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