Tech vets went to bat for Major League Cricket — now they have bigger goals for Seattle and beyond

A young Seattle Orcas fan holds up a team flag during a match last July between the Orcas and Washington Freedom at Grand Prairie Stadium in Grand Prairie, Texas. (Andy Mead Photo / Sportzpics for MLC)

When Sanjay Parthasarathy left his last tech job in February 2023, he figured he’d do what he could to help get the first season of Major League Cricket up and running in the Seattle area and at the national level. After that, it would probably be time to go find another “real job,” as he put it.

Just over a year later, Parthasarathy, one of several notable names from the region’s tech industry who are backing the Seattle Orcas, is beyond just getting things off the ground. He’s become fully immersed in the business of the sport he once played as a professional.

“I’ve done a startup. It was 10x a startup kind of pace and velocity,” Parthasarathy said of the inaugural season for the league and the Orcas. “I’ve played cricket my entire life. Running a team — that was something else.”

Sanjay Parthasarathy
Sanjay Parthasarathy. (Photo courtesy of Sanjay Parthasarathy)

The Orcas lead investor group includes Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella; Madrona Venture Group Managing Director S. Soma Somasegar; Icertis co-founder and CEO Samir Bodas; and GreatPoint Ventures managing partner Ashok Krishnamurthi. Indian conglomerate GMR Group also has a stake.

Parthasarathy was a longtime Microsoft executive before founding and leading Indix in 2012. The AI and machine learning startup was acquired by tax software giant Avalara in 2019, which was in turn acquired by Vista Equity Partners in 2022. Parthasarathy stepped down from his role as Avalara’s chief product officer last year.

In retrospect, the 2023 cricket season went much better than he and others expected. Parthasarathy said the effort probably accelerated cricket in the U.S. by two or three years. Not bad, considering the goal was “just to survive the season.”

MLC and its six teams — Seattle, Texas, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. — attracted fan and broadcast interest. And the Orcas finished as runners up in the short season of Twenty20 cricket that wrapped up outside Dallas last July.

There are several goals this season and none seem to faze Parthasarathy’s enthusiasm for what’s possible. Those goals include:

Make the Orcas ‘America’s favorite cricket team’

Parthasarathy said the Orcas decided from the start to be loud, different, and fun.

The team boasts a core group of fans from around the Seattle area, including many Asian Indians from the tech community. But as the smallest of the six MLC markets, the Orcas want to grow their base by attracting fans in cities across the U.S.

A redesign of the team’s original, quickly conceived logo added a cricket bat and crown (for King County) to the playful orca mascot. Fans took notice last summer, and Orcas merchandise was a hit.

“Every adult has their favorite team, but if you look at all the kids in the stadiums, they all have Seattle Orcas [jerseys],” Parthasarathy said. “That’s who we need to reach out to as a team.”

Broaden the fan base

Dwaine Pretorius of Seattle Orcas signs autographs for cricket fans during the first season of Major League Cricket at Grand Prairie Stadium near Dallas in July 2023. (Richard Huggard Photo / Sportzpics for MLC)

“We have product market fit — just to use a traditional startup term — with the core audience,” Parthasarathy said, referencing 30- to 40-year-old males tied to what he calls “the Commonwealth diaspora” — India, Pakistan, Australia, New Zealand and England.

To reach a broader base of U.S. fans used to professional baseball, football, basketball and more, it’s about getting cricket in front of people.

“If people are aware of it and they actually go watch, they’ll get hooked,” he said. “Is that going to take three years, seven years, 10 years? Probably. We’ve got to do out-of-the-box things to attract attention and just be different. Because if people watch it, they’ll enjoy it.”

Grow the sport at grassroots level

Referencing the popularity of the NBA, and basketball in general, Parthasarathy said there are pickup games in gyms, parks and home courts all around the country.

“We don’t have enough pickup games in cricket,” he said. “If you go to India, there’s pickup cricket going all the time, everywhere. How do we get from here to there? I call that grassroots development. … It doesn’t take much to get started. Don’t worry about the rules. Don’t worry about the technicalities. Just start to play. It’s see ball, hit ball, right? That’s where it starts.”

Prepare U.S. for strong showing at 2028 Olympics

Quinton de Kock of the Seattle Orcas bats during a qualifier match of Major League Cricket season 1 between the Seattle Orcas and the Texas Super Kings at Grand Prairie Stadium near Dallas last summer. (Andy Mead Photo / Sportzpics for MLC)

Even though it’s regarded as the second-most-popular sport in the world (behind soccer), cricket last appeared at the Olympics in 1900, at the Paris Games. In October, the International Olympic Committee approved the addition of the sport for the 2028 Los Angeles Games, and Parthasarathy called it a pivotal development, especially on the heels of the U.S. hosting matches for the 2024 ICC Men’s T20 World Cup.

“How do we get from Major League Cricket to the Olympics? That’s the journey that is most interesting, because you’ve got to get grassroots awareness and you’ve got to get the domestic team playing at a reasonable level,” Parthasarathy said.

Continue work on bringing a cricket ground to Seattle area

Two years ago, the King County Council passed a motion of support for the development of a cricket grounds at Marymoor Park in Redmond. Parthasarathy said discussions between MLC and the county and cities involved are ongoing.

“If we take a phased approach, we’re hoping we can get games going in this area in 2025,” he said. “But a lot of stars have to align to make that happen.”

MLC and the Orcas ownership group wants the grounds to be a community resource.

“This is not just going to be like the traditional approaches that we have with baseball stadiums and football stadiums,” Parthasarathy said. “There’s a lot more nuances and benefits to both sides that need to be worked out.”

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