Shane Warne announces plans for cold weather cricket
There's been several plans to try and take Twenty20 cricket to the US over the last 10 years or so. There's been Pro Cricket, Major League Cricket, Cricket Holdings America and more. Pro Cricket did at least play a season, whilst Cricket Holdings America saw a handful of T20Is played in Florida. Major League Cricket and the rest didn't even get off the ground.
But a new venture backed by Shane Warne is doing things a little differently. And not in a good way.
Warne has recruited a host of retired internationals to play three exhibition matches in the US, including Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Jacques Kallis, Wasim Akram and Adam Gilchrist.
Uniquely, he has booked three Major League Baseball Stadiums, namely Dodger Stadium, Wrigley Field and Yankee Stadium, home of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago Cubs and New York Yankees respectively. This does at least present cricket as being a "big thing" by having it being played in these major stadiums, but that's where the positives end for this venture.
The main problem is that Warne has booked the stadiums for November. Whilst this isn't really a problem for Los Angeles, where November weather could be considered glorious by the standards of a typical English summer, the climate in Chicago and New York at that time of year is hardly conducive to cricket.
Average temperatures in Chicago in November range from 0-9 degrees Celsius, and the city sees an average of three inches of snow. New York is only a few degrees warmer, and also has a good chance of snow at the time. Rain is never far away either.
One can't imagine the predominately ex-pat based cricket audience that exists in the US would be too keen at venturing out to watch sport in that climate, so the chances of getting a new audience are practically non-existent. Big cricket names they may be, but Shane Warne, Wasim Akram and Jacques Kallis are about as recognisable in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York as Yasiel Puig, Jon Lester and Alex Rodriguez would be in Melbourne, Lahore and Johannesburg.
And those in the US who do recognise the names will know that they are not going to get the players that they know. These players have retired for a reason - they just can't do what they used to be able to do.
Warne talks about the matches being something akin to the Harlem Globetrotters - a questionable comparison, as Globetrotter games are somewhere close to professional wrestling on the pre-determined outcomes scale - and intends to organise "free exhibitions" at schools. A laudable aim, but without any long term development plan to back it up isn't going to achieve all that much.
So let's not pretend that this Warne v Tendulkar exhibition series is a serious attempt to promote cricket in the US. Let's call it what it is - a chance for a bunch of past it cricket players to play in some iconic venues, boost their egos and make a little cash. Actual development of cricket in the US needs a long term 20-30 year (or longer) plan. Three matches just doesn't cut it.