The Cricket All Star series is a brainchild of two legends, Sachin Tendulkar and Shane Warne to promote the game in different parts of the world, starting with USA. Many legends including Sehwag, Lara, Ponting, Donald, Walsh, Akram, Kallis and Glenn Mcgrath featured in the 3 match cricket series. No wonder, it is termed the All Star series.
Genesis of the idea. As Sachin himself says, the idea came to him and Warne in the 2014 MCC Bi-centenary match. They realised that former players still have lot of passion for the game. Further, many fans, from non cricket-playing countries come to see cricket in the regular cricketing venues. Therefore why not have an attempt to globalise the game. Accordingly, he and Warne decided to have their 1st series in USA, and depending on the response, make it an annual feature and take it to other parts of the world.
Doesnt one retire to stop playing? Will people come to watch older cricketers? These two doubts are not by me, but by Ian Chappell. In response, Shane Warne stated that “There are a lot of people in America that have never seen some of their idols play. They’ve got their chance for the first time to come to the stadiums and actually see some of their heroes play. I think that’s a very exciting thing. We’re going to be putting on free coaching clinics for schools, all sorts of stuff.” Hence he termed Ian’s view as disappointing.
Why to start with USA? There are 2 common beliefs. 1-Isnt cricket unknown there and Baseball reigns. 2- USA doesn’t have a cricket history. So why USA ?
A look at some astonishing facts. USA surprisingly has a cricket history. The game was played there before baseball. George Washington was a strong supporter of Cricket and was known to play it with his troops. Cricket was quite popular, so much so that John Adams had said that if chiefs of cricket clubs are called President’s why not the Head of the Country. In 1844 there was an annual cricket match between USA and Canada which drew 20000 spectators. Bets of over 120000$ were placed (Current valuation over 2 Million$). Bart King was one of the great American bowlers. His bowling techniques 115 years back contributed to swing bowling and are followed by Great bowlers of today too. In fact, Sir Pelham Warner has called Bart King one of the best bowlers of all time while Sir Don Bradman called him America’s greatest cricketing son.
Therefore there are 3 reasons why the series started in USA; 1. It is a great country with a cricket history. 2. It has lot of immigrants from cricket playing countries. 3 In an effort to globalise and promote the game, why not start with USA, the greatest country in the world.
Why cricket declined in USA. There is a theory that Cricket declined as it was an elitist sport and available to very few. Hence Baseball took over. Professionalism in England and Australia made them the world leaders. There was also the one man phenomenon “Babe Ruth” who singlehandedly made Baseball an exciting game. Whatever the reason, the fact is that nowadays cricket is virtually unknown there.
Will Sachin’s Venture be successful in short and long run. In current times there are 37000 active players in USA and 1100 Cricket clubs. Cricket is played in all 50 States of USA. So its not that the game is totally unknown. As Usman Shuja, former US National cricketer puts it “Sachin is Michael Jordan and Michael Jackson put together . The star power and respect he has is beyond anyone alive today.” So if anyone can create some interest, it is the Master himself . His visit along with some more mega stars will certainly increase interest in the game. A revival may be an ambitious thought, but increase in interest is almost certainly assured.
Are the All Stars still fit for International cricket. Almost certainly Not. However when asked, both Warne and Sachin said that they can still play a couple of games which is different from regularly playing and being part of a long cricket season. In a lighter vein though looking at the cricket played in the 3 matches, one has a feeling that the batsmen have aged better than the bowlers.
Will people shift from baseball to cricket? Almost certainly not. A view was opined that there are minor baseball leagues where players languish with earnings of only 1000$ a month and they may slowly shift to cricket. This seems unlikely as they do so with the hope that one day they will play in the big league, similar to so many playing cricket in India without major earnings and only a few making it to the big levels. In any case the intention is not to compete with Baseball, but to bring a new sport to a hitherto unexplored terrain.
What I feel about Cricket’s future in USA. Ultimately only sports played in schools/colleges/states and sports leagues based on full time clubs with a regular sporting calendar can sustain in the long run. This is unlikely to happen in USA and if so, not immediately. However, let us look at the intentions of Sachin and Warne once again. Their stated intent is to globalise and promote the game. This series has given thousands their first chance to see cricket in a stadium. That too to see the games legends. For some category of people like security guards, cameramen, ushers and volunteers it will be the 1st experience of cricket. Ultimately it’s the effort that counts and the fact that thousands came to the stadium to watch live the people they had been idolizing shows that the effort has been worthwhile.
Further, Cricket clinics were indeed conducted and while many felt that they were hurried events, it was indeed enthralling to see young kids ask legends like Sachin technical questions like for instance, How to defend off the back foot?, How important is it to keep the head still ? and so on. The kids will never forget these lessons learnt from none other than Sachin Tendulkar and Shane Warne. Who knows, maybe some of them will go on to play Cricket for America in the World Cup. No harm in dreaming.
Overall, one can conclude that the brave attempt of Sachin and Warne to globalise the game and promote it in different parts of the world, and starting with USA is a wonderful idea. Like Ivy League Alumni seek to donate to the institutions which gave them so much, so also Sachin and Warne are giving back to the game which has given them a lot. Time will tell us how successful they are in the long run. However the start has been good, and the idea is definitely a success.
Well done, Magician of Spin Warne and Master blaster Sachin.