(Shane Warne & Sachin Tendulkar – Ashley Marshall / Sportsday Wire)
The Cricket All-Stars match at Citi Field on Saturday made it quite clear that the sport has a future in the United States.
Cricket legends Shane Warne of Australia and Sachin Tendulkar of India captained the teams, Warne’s Warriors and Sachin’s Blasters.
The atmosphere was on par with any of the Mets playoff games, as the crowd of around 36,000 people roared in appreciation of the internationals stars.
Coming from all over the world, in addition to Warne and Tendulkar, were Andrew Symonds, Ricky Ponting, Glenn McGrath, Matthew Hayden of Australia; Wasim Akram, Shoaib Akhtar, Moin Jhan, and Saqlain Mushtaq of Pakistan; Brian Lara, Carl Hooper, Curtly Ambrose, and Courtney Walsh of the West Indies; VVS Laxman, Souray Ganguly, and Virender Sehwag of India; Jonty Rhodes, Allan Donald, and Lance Klusener of South Africa; Graeme Swann and Michael Vaughan of England; Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara of Sri Lanka; and Daniel Vettori of New Zealand.
They played a new version of cricket that was started in 2005 called Twenty20, that mimics the length of a baseball game, roughly three hours. This is in contrast to the day-long internationals. In T20, each side has 20 overs to score as many runs as possible. An over is six pitches, or deliveries, and each side has 120 pitches. If a team gets ten outs, they are finished before reaching the 120.
The equivalent of the pitchers’ mound to home plate was set up in center field in the center of the field. Since there is no foul territory, players were scattered around in a circle.
To score a run, the hitter, or batsman, had to run the 66 feet to a white line where the bowler threw it from, and then if he successfully ran back to where he hit it from, that would be two runs. It was as if David Wright would hit the ball, run to the pitcher’s mound, and then back to home plate to secure two runs.
What brought the crowd to its feet was when a player hit it past the line they set up on the warning track in the air for six runs, the most you can score on a single hit. When balls were hit down the first base line (normally foul territory for the Mets), it was a frenzy.
The most appealing thing about this sport compared to baseball is that the objective is to actually hit the ball when it is thrown to them. This is a lot more appealing, in a sense, then watching guys try to walk, which can be the most tedious part of baseball.
The idea of constant action is one that Americans can gravitate towards. In a way it is why another sport has started to rise in this country: soccer.
People can be seen all over New York wearing the jerseys of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, and of teams like Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester United, Chelsea, and Arsenal.
The equivalent of Warne and Tendulkar in soccer are Thierry Henry, who came over to play for the Red Bulls in 2010, and Frank Lampard, David Villa, and Andrea Pirlo of New York City Football Club. NYC FC drew upwards of 30,000 for most of their games at Yankee Stadium, not much less than the Yankees drew.
Warne and Tendulkar are the perfect ambassadors to sell cricket here, as they are both charismatic and sophisticated. They are handling this the right way, holding these games in cities with large international populations.
In addition to Citi Field, Cricket All-Stars will be taking place in Minute Maid Park in Houston on Wednesday and Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles on Saturday.
Warne said of the game on Saturday, “It was very, very exciting being here today. The atmosphere was amazing. I think all the players enjoyed playing in front of that sort of crowd, 36,000 people. You could hear it; it was just so, so loud, so we really thank the people of New York. It’s gonna be tough to beat that, but we’re hoping Houston and Los Angeles can beat that for is. Overall, I think all of us were very, very happy. For such a night, we’ve been planning this for eight to ten months, lot of meetings, lot of promotion, that sort of stuff. We’re thankful for the players for all their hard work, too. I suppose for us, it was pretty proud to stand there today in New York and see so many people pack a baseball stadium for cricket here in New York. It was a pretty amazing day.”
Tendulkar said of seeing the crowd cheering the international stars, “Extremely pleasing. In fact, the last lap that we took was just to thank everyone because everyone generally felt that way. Everyone felt that we must take a round and thank everyone. While doing so, we saw so many banners and different flags, you know, that means a lot to us, and that is evident that people from different nations have come together to enjoy the sport. The whole idea of Cricket All-Stars is that, try to get as many nations to celebrate this, to globalize cricket. You saw the atmosphere, it was electrifying. I felt, I mean, I was there to watch the finals of Mets some time ago, and the atmosphere was exactly like that. Thank you very much to New York because it feels, for any sportsman, the best thing one can do is appreciate that performance and their effort and that is what we experienced today, so, a big thank you.”
When cricket will get to the point of having a league here or having tournaments with international teams is unclear. Whenever it comes, they can look back to Saturday at Citi Field as a historic day in the sport’s history.