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Let's hope cricket in the USA gets past first base

By Billy Weir

I'm a cynical so and so, some of you may have noticed, and I know that a rag-tag collection of ever-declining and ever-widening cricketers washing up in the USA for one last pay-day is the stuff of tutting and eyebrow raising, but for fans of the game, it's hard not have a place in your heart for the Cricket All Stars.

In fairness, it's three last pay-days as 30 of the best ever players - well, 28 and Michael Vaughan and Graeme Swann - are in the States for T20 games in New York, Houston and Los Angeles.

Sky have jumped on board for the ride as Warne's Warriors and Sachin's Blasters do 'battle', the first game taking place at the weekend at the home of the New York Mets baseball team in the Big Apple.

Looking at some of the protagonists, they have had more Big Macs than big apples of late and the pace of the game isn't what you would call brisk but as a bit of harmless fun in really poor shirts to spread the gospel of the sport to the great unbelievers, what's not to love?

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The teams are captained by Shane Warne and Sachin Tendulkar and include stars such as Wasim Akram, Brian Lara, Ricky Ponting, Jacques Kallis and Muttiah Muralitharan, who played in front of 35,000 people in New York, most of them Indian and going nuts and it was great fun.

Of course, the purists among us pooh-pooh such cricketing trivialities but in an era when personalities in white jumpers are as rare as, well, cricket in America, it speaks volumes for the state of the game.

It's hardly the first cricket sideshow - there is the Indian Premier League and the Big Bash League in Australia and even the Ram Slam, which is a cricketing event in South Africa and not something untoward on a Ballymena man's stag-do.

Presenter Alan Wilkins told us it was 'an audacious project, it's bold, it's ambitious, it's enterprising, it's putting cricket on the American landscape," which could well happen as West Indian 'quickie' Courtney Walsh, who has had a few cans of Lilt since retiring, made the borough of Queens quake as he came in to bowl like a Caribbean island.

Yes, there's a narrow line between freak show and fantastic but when did we ever think we would see this line again - Tendulkar c. Kallis b. Warne? The Stars may be fading, but in America that may make them an even bigger hit.

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