Thu, Nov 05, 2015 - Page 18 News List

Tendulkar, Warne sell cricket in New York

NY Times News Service, NEW YORK

Former India cricketer Sachin Tendulkar, right, plays a shot during a children’s event in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on Oct. 12.

Photo: AFP

When Sachin Tendulkar and Shane Warne walk the streets of New York, they create an odd phenomenon. About 95 percent of pedestrians pass them by without a second look. The other 5 percent go absolutely bonkers.

Tendulkar and Warne are two of the world’s best cricket players, which means little to the bulk of Americans. However, to those with roots in India, Australia or other cricket-loving lands, spotting them on the street is like a serendipitous encounter with Michael Jordan, Pope Francis or Taylor Swift.

“Wherever Sachin goes, you’ve got a billion people who love him,” said Warne, who is in the US with Tendulkar for three exhibition matches, beginning on Saturday at Citi Field, home of Major League baseball’s New York Mets. “That’s just in India, let alone around the world.”

“Coming to America, you really only have cricket lovers, but there’s still so many of those, especially from India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka,” the former Australia player said.

There are few sportsmen with the credentials of Tendulkar, 42, who has a good case for being the greatest cricket batsman. He began playing for India at 16, and by the time he retired at 40 he had scored 15,921 runs in Test matches, the top level of the game, more than 2,000 ahead of his nearest rival.

Warne, 46, is generally considered to be the greatest of spin bowlers — tricky rotating deliveries that can bamboozle batsmen. He ranks second in wickets taken in Test matches.

Warne and Tendulkar said they welcomed the partial respite that the US gives them from their sometimes suffocating notoriety in cricket countries.

“There is a bodyguard with me 24 hours,” Tendulkar said matter-of-factly.

“It actually could harm him; he gets stampeded,” Warne said.

Tendulkar and Warne are to captain opposing teams of retired cricketers for the exhibition games at Citi Field, on Wednesday next week at Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas, and on Saturday next week at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. The lineups read like a who’s-who of cricket over the past 25 years, including superstars like Brian Lara of the West Indies, Wasim Akram of Pakistan and Muttiah Muralitharan of Sri Lanka.

To Americans, cricket can conjure up images of sleepy English afternoons.

“Everyone has this preconceived idea of what cricket is,” Warne said. “A five-day Test match, no result, like: Yawn.”

TWENTY20

However, the game at Citi Field is to be Twenty20 cricket, a fast-paced three-hour form of the game that has been growing in popularity.

“It’s a great version of the game,” Warne said. “It’s got the skill, the athleticism. It’s the rock ’n’ roll version, you’ve got no time to think.”

“Toward the end, every ball matters,” Tendulkar said.

It is possible that the game could leave a lasting mark on Citi Field, or at least on its big video screen in center field.

“If you work out the angles at Citi Field, the screen is in a bit of the hit zone,” Warne said with a grin. “Like when you look at dimensions and the way the cricket pitch is going to be dropped in, if some of these guys hit the ball over 100m.”

Making Citi Field suitable for cricket will take some doing. The most vital part of a cricket field is the pitch — a hard strip of rolled ground 22 yards (20m) long and 10 feet (3m) wide, on which the bowler bounces the ball to the batsman. The quality and nature of the pitch can have a profound effect on how a game plays out.

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