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Cricket All-Stars: Straight drive through America

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Home is where the cricket is

The number of cricket fans in New York must have come as a pleasant surprise to the legends who took the Citi Field on Saturday in the first Cricket All-Stars game. Many of these fans were seen wearing Indian and Pakistani jerseys. Most of these fans were Indian and Pakistani immigrants who have grown up to cricket in the 1990s and early 2000s. The players taking to the field were idols who had meant so much to them in their impressionable years that it showed when they cheered every ball, every run till the end. After all, these were the players they had imitated in their backyards with their first cricket kit. However, these were not the only people in the stadium. A tiny fraction were watching their first cricket match; a group of fans had flown in from Trinidad just for this game (Brian Lara may be the magnet here). Some of them were even Australian, English and South African expatriates. These and many more formed a giant motley crowd who combined in Mexican waves and high-decibel roars. The team announcements before the game was met with delirium.

In the end, sadly for the Sachin fans, Warne’s Warriors beat Sachin’s Blasters by six wickets. It was a great occasion for the players too, though.The stadium was small, the setting intimate – Ricky Ponting admitted that it was the first time in his life that a fan had clicked a selfie with him. These may have been retired cricketers having a bit of fun in the park but seeing them in action put spectators in a time-capsule where they lost themselves to joy for a few hours. As the game wore on, instead of the crowd getting tired the chants got louder, the flags waved faster, and the mood was filled with a sense of gusto. A good way to have a good time and a great way to introduce Americans to cricket.

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USA players given a chance to shine

This series has also given cricket players of the USA team a fantastic chance to watch and learn from some of the best players ever to have graced a cricket pitch. The tournament is also boosting these players’ own profile among cricket followers in the country. Although virtually all the attention has been placed on the legends the series has also given several USA players the opportunity to be a part of the festivities as net bowlers, and a select few have even been chosen as “12th man”. Former USA captain Steve Massiah, current USA captain Muhammad Ghous and team-mates Alex Amsterdam, Adil Bhatti and Akeem Dodson were all in the dugout for the first game on Saturday in New York. Not only did they get a chance to mingle with the All-Stars, they even got to experience the New York Mets’ stadium, Citi Field, as players in the dug-out.

On Tuesday, there were a mostly new crop of players who came to Minute Maid Park in Houston to bowl to the legends during ‘net-practice’. Most of these players travelled quite a distance to get there, like USA all-rounder Japen Patel who made a journey of 800 miles [1200kms] from Atlanta.

A rare few, like fast bowler Jasdeep Singh, have had the chance to bowl to the stars throughout the last week. Jasdeep, 22, made his USA debut in May, bowled at the indoor session in New Jersey before serving as a net bowler on the eve of the first match at Citi Field. The encouragement and inspiration he received motivated him to fly to Houston to continue training alongside the All-Stars. In Jasdeep’s own words – it was “a lifetime experience”, a rare opportunity to not just bowl at but talk to and get insights from the stars.

 

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