NEW YORK: David Beckham is the millionaire model, sportsman and nice guy credited with helping make soccer more popular in the United States (US). 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.
“Cricket is second only to football in terms of world popularity,” Shane Warne said
“We don’t think it’s a gamble, we think Americans are ready,” said Warne in a nod to his sideline as a poker player.
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 (LA).
“We’re here to establish cricket in America” Sachin Tendulkar 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 bat.”
Among the talent on the Blasters are Graeme Swann, Brian Lara, Curtly Ambrose, Glenn McGrath, Mahela Jayawardena, Muttiah Muralitharan Moin Khan and Shoaib Akhtar.
Included in the Warriors are Ajit Agarkar, Matthew Hayden, Courtney Walsh, Ricky Ponting, Kumar Sangakara, Michael Vaughan Wasim Akram and Saqlain Mushtaq.
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 Warne.
“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 International Cricket Council (ICC)-sanctioned Cricket All Stars tour will feature short-format Twenty20 matches in New York, Houston and Los Angeles starting from Nov 7 at Citi Field, home to Major League Baseball’s New York Mets.
The other games of the tour will be played at the Houston Astos’ Minute Maid Park on Nov 11 and Dodger Stadium on Nov 14.