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The descent of the stars at the Cricket All Stars

Cricket All-Stars
LOS ANGELES CA – NOVEMBER 14: Shane’s Warriors Shane Warne (L) and Sachin’s Blasters Sachin Tendulkar pose after the final game of a three-match three city US tour of Twenty20 series of Cricket All-Stars Series at Dodger Stadium November 14, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. Indian Sachin Tendulkar and Australian Shane Warne captained two All-Star on a three city tour to spark interest of the sport in the US. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

The descent of the stars at the Cricket All Stars: ‘It is a rock and roll version of the game. Huge hitting and lots of fielding.’ –Shane Warne.

Well, it was more than that with all the stars on the field together.  The 10-day expedition of 28 stalwarts of the gentleman’s game in the land of the Star Spangled Banner came to an end with a memorable six from Warnie, a perfect finish from the progenitor of this series, that gave his team a clean sweep win in the inaugural edition of Cricket All Stars tournament.

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The inception of this tournament was with an aim to globalize cricket and to increase its swathe and fan following across the world. The time and venue of the game were all perfect. In June, the USA Cricket Association (USACA) had been suspended and the Local advisory Group had been formed there by the ICC to inculcate interest in the game. So the inaugural edition was a fillip to the USA to reinstate USACA. Besides a cosmopolitan amalgamation of the region ensured that a vast expatriate population from across the globe would be attracted by it, of course with the dominance of the Indians. In addition, the time of the league also coincided with the meeting of the ICC officials with the International Olympic Committee with an aim to introduce cricket back in the Olympics after 1900.

The biggest challenge for the smooth conduct of the tournament was the transformation of the baseball stadium into an oval pitch. The pitch had to be different from what was prepared for the baseball matches. Instead of slowing down when the ball bounces the cricket fans love to see the ball run to the fence and hence lots of effort had to be put in to do the same. Thus, the New York game saw a 74 foot long –pitch being manufactured in Indianapolis and lowered down in Citi Field, New York, just behind the second base of the Triangular field. The pitches in Houston and Los Angeles were fashioned on similar lines.

The easiest task of the entire tournament was asking the legends to come and play as was told by Sachin himself. The legends ranging from Courtney Walsh to Virender Sehwag are all live embodiments of the spirit of the game they were to promote and to see them play together was a real treat.

The first match brought with it all the nostalgia and lore associated with the star cricketers. It all started with the legendary pair of Sachin and Sehwag walking in, to bat and the stadium reverberating with the sounds of ‘Sachin’‘Sachin’ and ‘Viru’‘Viru’. This was followed with the trademark knock of Sehwag, his swashbuckling shots which spanked Allan Donald and Walsh all over the ground as he scored 55 of just 22 balls. The game also witnessed Tendulkar batting alongside Lara, with Warne dismissing both of them, and the spectacle was a replay of the magic of the 90s for all the lovers of the game.

The second half saw the fiery paceman Shoaib Akhtar swoon the crowd with his gun blazing action, which left the likes of Kumar Sangakkara, Jacques Kallis, and Matthew Hayden all dumbfounded. Another attraction of the match was the Lankan greats, Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene who did not appear one after the other in batting line up but managed to appear alongside – KC Sangakkara c Jayawardene b Akhtar.  But the thing which trumped the Blasters was the flamboyance of Ponting and Sangakkara which helped the Warriors reach a comfortable win, chasing a modest total of 141.

The second match saw the game being walloped by the Warriors but it was not without its own instances of excitement. The eye candy was Sangakkara who made a quick seventy, by hitting boundaries over long-on and midwicket, which acted as the catalyst to the Warriors’ mammoth total. This was accompanied by Ponting’s mayhem, especially against Klusener. On the other hand, Lara struggled to conjure the right shots before he was stumped as he came forward to challenge a ball from Symonds. Shaun Pollock had a terrible spell with the ball but made it up by hitting seven sixes in his 22-ball stay, thereby helping his team to cruise beyond the 200 mark.

There was some disappointment as the magic man, Murli had a dry spell, and Shoaib could not repeat his New York performance and even Dada who came in at number three failed to enthrall the audiences. Out and out, seeing the legends play at the home ground of the baseball team Astros was the perfect Diwali gift and it didn’t matter on which side of the foul line the ball ended that day.

Although the result of the series was already decided the third match was in no way a dead rubber which was evident by the crowd which had gathered in Los Angeles to watch the final match of Cricket All-Star Series. Sachin’s Blasters got off to a good start with Sachin, Jayawardene, Ganguly and Hooper all chipping in, adequate runs and posting a formidable total of 219/5 in 20 overs. But the chances of winning the final match were ruined because of giving away too many runs in the slog overs although the Warriors were initially down for 52 for 3 with Michael Vaughan being out for a duck. The initial collapse was overshadowed by the recovery led by Sangakkara, Kallis, and Ponting with Warne coming in to do the winning honors.  The match also saw hilarious tweets being written on Ganguly’s haywire hair bringing back some IPL memories.

In the end apart from Sangakkara who was the Man of the Series and the winning Warrior’s team, the real winner was the “game of cricket”. The reason was the aim with which the 15-match event was conceived got a successful opening and was a huge crowd puller in a land which does not even have proper cricketing fields. Therefore, the seeds of cricket have been sown in the USA with the hope that the next edition of the Cricket All Stars is bigger, better, and more exciting and the game is played all over the world along with other sports. To conclude just as Sachin said the aim is to ensure that every child in America holds a cricket bat along with a baseball bat so that cricket becomes a sport where teams may compete but all revel.

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