Yes, the World Cup really IS heading to New York. But when King Kohli touches down, he’ll find a slice of suburbia far from the electricity of Manhattan…

In two days’ time, trains carrying thousands of cricket fans will head into the dark tunnels beneath Manhattan and cross under the East River before beginning a 30-mile journey into Long Island.

Only once they are deep in suburbia will visitors climb out of the carriages and on to a shuttle bus headed for the sprawling Eisenhower Park. Then comes a short walk to a patch of grass marked ‘Field 5’, which, according to a green sign, offers baseball, football, golf, a telephone and toilets.

For 10 days this summer, however, Field 5 has been transformed into a temporary home for cricket royalty. New York will host eight T20 World Cup group games, with other matches in Florida and Dallas before the latter stages head to the Caribbean. On June 9, this slice of suburbia will be set ablaze by the sport’s most electrifying rivalry: India v Pakistan. It has been some makeover for Field 5.

Since work began in January, the serenity of Eisenhower Park has been interrupted by the clattering sounds of construction. A 34,000-seat temporary stadium has been built. Workers braved the snow of winter and record rainfall in March — all to provide ‘a truly American experience’ that includes cabanas in the north pavilion and a ‘private party area’ in the Corner Club.

When Mail Sport took a tour last month, builders faced a race against time to turn this backwater into a place fit for King Kohli.

Virat Kohli will find the India-Pakistan clash in New York far from the electricity of Manhattan

Builders have been in a race against time to get 'Field 5' ready for their 8 T20 World Cup games

Builders have been in a race against time to get ‘Field 5’ ready for their 8 T20 World Cup games

At each end of the ground, scaffolding stretched high into the grey skies, ready for scoreboards to be put into place. The hospitality areas remained bare. Urinals and sinks were still in packaging. All day, forklift trucks and vans came and went, ferrying equipment and men in hard hats. All while locals wandered past, many confused why their normal walk required a detour.

America has a long and complicated relationship with cricket and there were grand plans for games to be held in Central Park and in the Bronx. Instead, the T20 World Cup landed here, where seats in the giant temporary stands offer a view of the Manhattan skyline, but Eisenhower Park offers none of its energy or noise or exposure.

‘T20 World Cup fever grips USA,’ the ICC recently boasted, alongside a video showing this stadium’s remarkable construction. You can forgive the hyperbole. The truth, though, is that the only teams turning heads in New York right now are the Rangers — who have been chasing NHL play-off glory — and the suits defending Donald Trump. Even for visitors to Eisenhower Park, there are few signposts that cricket is coming until you reach the steel fence around Field 5.

World Cup branding is plastered along the steel alongside words such as ‘RUN’, ‘OUT’, ‘SIX’, and the tournament slogan: ‘OUT OF THIS WORLD’. Well, it is certainly out of the way.

Hardly ideal, when organisers hope this tournament will leave a similar legacy to the 1994 football World Cup, which laid the foundations for 30 years of growth and Lionel Messi’s arrival last year.

But they have reportedly forked out about £25million on this stadium. The stands have been repurposed from Formula One’s Grand Prix in Las Vegas. The pitches were made using grass developed in Oklahoma, ‘nurtured’ in Florida, and then driven to New York over 24 hours. Organisers are said to be confident their investment will see returns.

Tickets are still available for every game at the Nassau County International Cricket Stadium last night. Some will set you back £47; the cheapest available seats — in the ‘Premier Club Lounge’ — for India vs Pakistan cost £1,960. On the resale market, tickets were going for £8,620 a head.

The public ballot for the latest meeting between these bitter rivals was supposedly over-subscribed 200 times over.

According to the ICC, there are 50 million cricket fans in the US. But this stadium has already seen protests over the use of Canadian and Californian construction workers — rather than locals. And the obvious question come game day will be how many ticket holders will be New Yorkers, too?

‘We’re still learning about that,’ Brett Jones, CEO of T20 USA Inc told Mail Sport. ‘We suspect there’s a strong cultural and heritage link to a lot of the buyers.’ But? ‘We think there’ll be a very strong US market. Hopefully we can drag people out from Manhattan to enjoy a typical summer’s day watching some cricket.’

None of the locals Mail Sport spoke to had plans to go. One was put off by the ticket prices. One was a basketball fan — as for cricket? ‘I’m not there yet,’ he said. One elderly man was more interested in how much the venture was costing taxpayers.

Citi Field, the home of the New York Mets, will host one of the city's watch parties for the rivalry

Citi Field, the home of the New York Mets, will host one of the city’s watch parties for the rivalry

Sri Lanka's Charith Asalanka at the The Central Broward Park & Broward County Stadium

Sri Lanka’s Charith Asalanka at the The Central Broward Park & Broward County Stadium

When India face Pakistan, there will be watch parties at Citi Field — home of the Mets — and down at World Trade Center. Organisers have also forked out for marketing in Times Square. Elsewhere, cricket will not come and go at such speed and cost.

The Central Broward Park & Broward County Stadium, a 30-mile drive north of Miami, was the country’s first ICC-sanctioned stadium. It has had a £6.6m facelift before hosting four World Cup games. Capacity has swelled to 12,000 and only pockets of general admission tickets remain for the four matches there.

Grand Prairie Stadium was renovated and repurposed — at a cost of £16m — for last year’s launch of a six-team domestic tournament, Major League Cricket, which lured international players including England’s Jason Roy and Liam Plunkett. It once hosted baseball but is now a dedicated cricket ground as home of the Texas Super Kings.

No matter that the Dallas heat can be suffocating — only patches of the 7,200 seats remain unsold for its four games. There was a brief moment of panic for organisers there on Monday when a giant temporary LED screen collapsed after a tornado struck the ground, forcing the cancellation of a warm-up game between the USA and Bangladesh. Staff had to work around the clock to ensure the venue is ready for tonight’s opening fixture between USA and Canada.

In both Texas and Florida, matches involving the hosts appear to have been the hardest sell. America is a nation of stadiums but cricket cannot squeeze into any of the NFL’s 32 arenas, while iconic ballparks such as Yankee Stadium are hosting baseball this summer.

This is the first major international cricket tournament to be staged in the United States but games have been played here since the 1700s. It largely died out after the First World War as baseball took over. These days, around 200,000 people play cricket in America across 400 local leagues.

The ICC have long seen America as a target market flush with untapped potential. Last summer saw the launch of MLC after initial investment of £94m.

‘It felt like we were playing in a professional franchise,’ said Plunkett, part of the San Francisco Unicorns. ‘It was outstanding. It could have been in the IPL, the Hundred or T20 Blast.’

Except that the tournament was played in only two venues — at Grand Prairie Stadium and in North Carolina. Plunkett knows that, in time, it is ‘crucial’ for teams to have their own stadiums in their own communities. ‘That’s how you create a following,’ he said. ‘It’s quite hard to get people in San Francisco — who don’t know much about cricket — to get behind San Francisco when they’re playing in Texas.’

Organisers claim it exceeded expectations financially. It enjoyed decent TV exposure but failed to make much of a dent on a saturated sporting market. The tournament’s second season begins after the World Cup.

‘There’s a massive appetite for cricket — you have a lot of ex-pats and people coming across from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh who don’t get to see these professional cricketers live,’ Plunkett said. ‘With this World Cup coming up, people from America who’ve not seen much cricket, they’ll see how big cricket is — especially that Pakistan-India game in New York. America will get a shock.’

Grand Prairie Stadium in Texas was renovated and repurposed for Major League Cricket

Grand Prairie Stadium in Texas was renovated and repurposed for Major League Cricket

Junaid Siddiqui of Canada bowled in a net session ahead of the start of this year's World Cup

Junaid Siddiqui of Canada bowled in a net session ahead of the start of this year’s World Cup

Recently, Plunkett and Usain Bolt — a World Cup ambassador — were among the guests shipped in for a look around New York’s new cricket stadium. Very soon, more sporting royalty will join the golfers and dog-walkers in Eisenhower Park. Even once the World Cup heads to the Caribbean, and these stands come down, there are plans to ensure the drop-in pitches are still put to good use.

‘They’re a real legacy for the game in New York,’ Jones said. For Plunkett, the key will be getting cricket into schools.

Bolt, meanwhile, sees this tournament as cricket’s ‘launching pad’ ahead of its inclusion in the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles. That will represent another huge leap forward for the sport.

Let us just hope the scoreboards and urinals are set up in time.