Jimmy O’Brien’s the new cricket champ in America, bringing the sport fresh energy just as the T20 World Cup arrives. This baseball whiz is trading his Manhattan podcast booth for the T20 spotlight!

Jimmy O’Brien commentating 

New Jersey, USA – It’s a chilly March day in Jersey City. From the street, a warehouse hides its secrets. Fenced in, under a loud bridge, it blends with the industrial scene, except for the surprising cannabis shop next door. But step inside, and it’s a sports fan’s dream! This massive space is a playing field come to life.

Here’s where “Ball in Play” is in full swing, a wacky mix of cricket and baseball. Players sport colorful kits and bucket hats. Team names like “The Woogas” and “McFlurry Power” plaster the walls.

This is 35-year-old Jimmy O’Brien’s, aka Jomboy, dream come true.

Jomboy Media, his baby, exploded from a two-man podcast to a media powerhouse. Over 60 people now work in their swanky New York City offices, near the Empire State Building, and this New Jersey warehouse.

Jomboy built his success on analyzing baseball and other American sports with podcasts and videos. But then, cricket snuck into his heart, completely by surprise. Little did he know, it would land him a dream job in cricket broadcasting!

Big surprise for cricket fans! The T20 World Cup commentary team just got an American baseball dude! This guy, never even played cricket himself, will be calling the shots alongside cricket legends. He’s like a baseball coach at a soccer game, but way cooler! This is all about getting new people, especially Americans, to love cricket. So get ready for a wild ride with this all-star team, cricket experts and a baseball newbie explaining things for American fans! It’s gonna be a blast!

Jimmy O’Brien playing Ball in Play 

That’s right, Jimmy O’Brien, bowling (sort of) for Team Baggage in Ball in Play, a crazy warehouse tournament in New Jersey this March!

The Accidental Cricket Guru

Cricket? You bet! But Daniel O’Brien’s love affair with the sport began with a whimper, not a roar. Six-year-old Daniel found himself in the heart of Sydney’s cricket culture – the suburb of Lindfield. Recess at Holy Family Primary was a blur of wicket-taking (well, maybe not) and fielding attempts (probably more like chasing the ball).

“Never actually played it,” O’Brien laughs, speaking to Al Jazeera. “Just messed around in the schoolyard with my mate. Cricket on TV? Nah, it was all about rugby and Aussie Rules for me.”

But cricket snuck in through the back door. Dad’s company outing became an impromptu cricket match, and young Daniel, clueless about the rules, joined in the fun. “Run back and forth, score runs, that much I knew,” he grins.

Back in the States, sports media beckoned. O’Brien started as a videographer, but his true passion was the New York Yankees. In 2017, a hobby podcast with his buddy Jake Storiale became their new obsession.

“Talk Yankees with someone? Nobody! So, I built a Twitter account, pumped out content,” O’Brien recalls. “Then, bam! The Yankees went on a tear, playoffs, and our little podcast exploded. We thought we were huge stars – maybe 1,000 listeners!”

But a small seed had been planted. A $25,000 gamble – quit the day job, go full-time podcasting. “Jake got laid off, needed a gig,” O’Brien says. “Split this crazy dream with me?”

Crazy? Maybe. Brilliant? Absolutely. O’Brien’s secret weapon? Lip-reading combined with video analysis. From strategy to suspected cheating, Major League Baseball was laid bare. Viral videos in 2019 sent their channel, Jomboy, into the stratosphere.

This accidental cricket fan may not have started with a bat and ball, but his love for the game, like his passion for baseball, burns brightly.

Cricket Cravings Return

Fatherhood and a global pandemic unexpectedly brought O’Brien back to cricket. His son, James, arrived in November 2021, right during the T20 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates.

Stuck between the hospital and a hotel room with no internet or cable for five days, O’Brien found himself surprisingly drawn back to the sport. “I watched this Australian documentary called ‘The Test’ on Amazon,” he explained, “because I love Aussie stuff and didn’t want to lose touch with that part of my life. Season one got me hooked again.”

“While I was stuck at the hospital,” he continued, “the T20 World Cup was the only live thing on. Then, on paternity leave, I ended up watching a ton of cricket.”

Living on the US East Coast meant late-night cricket viewing became a regular routine for the new dad, thanks to T20 leagues in New Zealand and Australia. “The strategy stuff is fascinating,” he admitted, “and I love bat-and-ball sports. But unlike baseball, cricket’s still enjoyable even with less athletic players. Baseball can be rough to watch with amateurs, but with cricket, I could tune in to any league and have a good time. Maybe that just means I haven’t become a cricket snob yet!”

Making Cricket Click in the US

Maybe it’s his chill attitude that’s winning over new fans. Unlike some cricket snobs, Jomboy O’Brien speaks the language of novices.

Take his breakdown of the West Indies’ epic Test win over Australia. In 10 minutes, he transformed complex cricket history and tactics – Steve Smith’s tail-ender strategy, Joseph’s bowling smarts – into a crash course for beginners.

His explanation of why Smith needs to keep batting (protecting the terrible batsman Hazlewood) is hilarious: “He’s a great bowler, but hitting? Not his forte.”

Baseball references fly, too.

When Smith plays a late cut, Jomboy clarifies it’s not a weak foul ball (like in baseball), but a great cricket shot.

And when Joseph finally dismisses Hazlewood (knocking his top stump off – “top of off” or “off of top”?), Jomboy translates: “He nailed the corner, like a high and outside fastball. Boom!”

Another viral clip shows Jomboy explaining how bowlers trick batsmen. He breaks down tricky terms like “inswinger,” “outswinger,” and “wobble seam” in a way anyone can grasp.

Fans are raving. Some say Jomboy’s the key to finally understanding cricket. Others say he’s a game-changer for the sport in the US.

From Baseball to Cricket 

The bigwigs at the ICC are swinging for the fences hoping Jomboy can crack the code and bring cricket to the US. They’re bringing him on board for the matches in New York City, figuring he can break down the game for American audiences.

“We’re pumped to have Jomboy join our commentary team for the T20 World Cup,” said Ajesh Ramachandran, the ICC’s TV boss, to Al Jazeera. “He’s got this awesome way of explaining things and telling stories that makes sports fun. Cricket can be a bit confusing sometimes, but Jomboy can break it down for folks in the US and make it a blast to watch. Plus, he’s a huge cricket fan and knows how to connect with viewers. This World Cup is gonna be epic!”

For Jomboy, it’s a whole new ball game. He’s used to analyzing games on his podcast, but now he’s stepping into the big leagues of broadcasting. He’s a little nervous, though, since he never played cricket growing up.

“I’m super excited, but also freaking out a bit,” he admits. “This is totally new for me, and I know how much people love cricket. I gotta do good!”

Jomboy thinks cricket has a shot at becoming popular in the US, but it won’t happen overnight. “Imagine if cricket in America was as big as baseball is in Australia! That would be amazing,” he says. “But it takes time to grow a sport. We gotta get kids playing it, that’s the key.”

March Madness 

Back in March, the warehouse buzzed with an unusual game. Former baseball pros “bowled” underhand tosses, while current cricketers swung flattened baseball bats – a quirky hybrid. Team “Ball in Play” wasn’t your typical squad. Social media stars, employees, and even batting novices joined the fun, aiming for “wickets” (not outs), fours, and sixes, all while running between the makeshift wickets. This was Jimmy O’Brien’s brainchild, a perfect blend of his sporting passions.

Little did they know, two players from this motley crew, Aaron Jones and Shayan Jahangir, would be selected for the USA World Cup team! Jahangir, even, played alongside O’Brien on Team Baggage. Fate had a surprising twist in store – O’Brien, the commentator, might soon be calling the shots for his former teammate on a global stage, with millions watching.


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