New York - David Beckham is the millionaire
model, sportsman and nice guy credited with helping make soccer more popular in
the United States. And now Shane Warne wants to do the same for cricket.
The Australian spin king has jetted into
New York with Indian batting great Sachin Tendulkar to embark on an exhibition
tour designed to get baseball-loving Americans up to speed with a sport few of
them understand, play or ever watch.
"Soccer wasn't big. David Beckham came
over here and suddenly the sport is starting to grow," Warne told
reporters at a hotel in Times Square ahead of the first All-Stars game on
Cricket is second only to soccer in terms
of world popularity, he said, no matter that baseball and American football
reign supreme in the United States.
"We don't think it's a gamble, we
think Americans are ready," said Warne in a nod to his sideline as a poker
Warne and Tendulkar will captain two sides
- Warne's Warriors and Sachin's Blasters - that will showcase the talents of
some of the greatest stars in world cricket, playing three Twenty20 three-hours
games in New York, Houston and Los Angeles.
Tendulkar, who offers a softly-spoken
bookish counterpart to Warne's tell-it-how-it-is drive, said their dream was to
one day see an American team in the World Cup.
"We're here to establish cricket in
America" he said. "The next time we come here it would be nice to
find an American kid with a cricket bat in his hand alongside a baseball
They will be doing cricket clinics for
young children, interact with players as much as possible and invite women
cricketers to their practise sessions as well, he said.
Among the talent on the Blasters are Graeme
Swann, Brian Lara, Curtly Ambrose, Glenn McGrath, Moin Khan and Shoaib Akhtar.
Included in the Warriors are Ajit Agarkar,
Matthew Hayden, Courtney Walsh, Ricky Ponting, Michael Vaughan and Wasim Akram.
They may not be as quick as they were 10
years ago, but these retired stars insist they've lost none of their skills -
nor their competitive streak.
"We're going to go out there and play
as hard as we possibly can, and we're going to win. Simple as that," said
"We're good friends, but not on the
field," said Tendulkar. "We want to go out and not disappoint the
fans... We want to win the hearts of as many people as possible here."
The ICC-sanctioned matches will be played
on drop-in pitches at major baseball fields in New York, Houston and Los
A portion of the proceeds will go to the
ICC for the development of cricket within the United States.
Warne said the response "had been
overwhelming" and if all goes well, it could become an annual event.
He batted aside suggestions that the rules
of cricket were too complicated for Americans to follow.
"When you take two minutes to
concentrate on it, it's actually very simple," he said. "We're trying
to hit the stumps and they're trying to hit it out of the park. It's not that
But most spectators are widely expected to
be expatriates from cricket-loving nations. The vast majority of the reporters
at Thursday's press conference were from overseas.
New York in particular is home to the
largest concentration of immigrants in the United States from Bangladesh,
India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka where cricket is a national obsession.
Ponting, who led Australia to victory at
the 2003 and 2007 World Cups, said he owed it to the game to help it grow on
virgin ground - not just in the United States, but also in China.
"We're all hoping we can go out there
and do the right thing by the game and make sure that the American sport-loving
public can enjoy what we do," he said.
Shaun Pollock, ex South Africa captain,
said he could never have imagined one day playing cricket in a US baseball
"Americans in general would probably
say that our game's boring, he admitted. "It's a real opportunity,"
"They can come in their own stadiums
where they usually watch the baseball, sit in the same seats, eat the same hot
dogs that they normally eat and compare the entertainment and actually say to
themselves well may be this game of cricket is not so bad."