The Cricket All-Stars Series got underway at Citi Field - home of the New York Mets - today. For this writer it was a somewhat depressing look at some of the players I watched growing up. The quality of cricket was mixed - and often quite poor - with many players looking like what they are - long retired and past it cricketers.
It didn't get off to a promising start. Indian singer Ila Paliwal butchered the US national anthem, and the players - rather disrespectfully - traipsed onto the field as the anthem was being sung. The ground (which seats just under 42,000) didn't look particularly full, though it did begin to fill up as the game went on, but didn't get much past half full.
Warne's Warriors won the toss and chose to let Sachin's Blasters have first use of the drop in pitch, trucked in from Indianapolis.
The onfield action began with Wasim Akram bowling no faster than medium pace to Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar. This depressing sight was followed by an even slower Alan Donald, who was less White Lightning and more apple juice. Even with my bad leg, large gut and asthma, I would have backed myself to be able to run in quicker than the man who once stuck fear into the hearts of international batsmen. Strangely, Akram's second spell later on was quicker - the cynical might suggest he'd been told to take it easy on star attraction Tendulkar.
Courtney Walsh and Jacques Kallis were similarly slow, and by this time Virender Sehwag had begun to get hold of the bowling, not that it was difficult to do that given some of the pies that were being sent down. Once Warne brought himself on, Tendulkar holed out for 26 to Jacques Kallis on the short midwicket boundary, one of three Kallis caught there. That isn't much of an exaggeration by the way, the odd dimensions caused by playing in a baseball stadium meant that short midwicket wasn't all that far from the boundary.
Sehwag reached his fifty from 20 balls, but was out shortly afterwards having scored 55, bowled by Daniel Vetorri. The spinners took hold of the Warriors' innings, with no other batsman able to get past the 18 scored by Mahela Jayawardene. Shaun Pollock was the only batsman not to be dismissed by a spinner, as he fell to Allan Donald's dibbly dobbly medium pacers.
The final total for Sachin's Blasters was 140-8, a pretty poor total given the short boundaries and the quality of some of the bowling.
The second innings of the match was - in every respect - better than the first. Batting, bowling, fielding (apart from a slow Moin Khan behind the stumps) was all much improved. Shoaib Akhtar was bowling close to his fiery best, bowling some genuinely quick bouncers and some devious slower balls.
Kumar Sangakkara - who obviously only recently retired from international cricket and played county cricket this year - and Ricky Ponting led the way for the Warriors with 41 and and 48 not out respectively. On the dismissal of Sangakarra - and the quick dismissal of Andrew Symonds that followed - Jonty Rhodes scored 20 from 14 balls, completing the six wicket win by hitting Tendulkar for six.
Ignoring the quality - or lack thereof - of the cricket, will this have helped promote cricket in the US? It seems unlikely. The prices for the series are steep - with some seats in Los Angeles and Houston being more expensive than MLB play-off tickets. The promotion of the event suggests that it is an event aimed squarely at the ex-pat community in the US.
And there's nothing wrong with that, nor is their anything wrong with retired players getting a pay cheque for one last run out in front of a big crowd. But throughout the build up - and during the game - we have been told that this is about globalising cricket, that it was about "bringing cricket to America". Little about the event suggested that it was.
I won't be watching the other two games in the series. This match was on at a reasonable time for the UK, whilst the other two are on in the middle of the night. It was entertaining - sometimes for the wrong reasons - but will it develop cricket in the US? I doubt it.
Developing cricket in the US is not an overnight thing. It's going to take decades of grassroots investments. Shane Warne at one point during the build up compared what he was doing to what David Beckham did when he signed for Major League Soccer side LA Galaxy. That ignores the fact that soccer had nigh on 40 years of development by the time that happened.
This is not development. It's ex-players exploiting a cricket hungry predominately expatriate fanbase to make some money. There's nothing wrong with that - but they could at least be honest about it.
Warne's Warriors beat Sachin's Blasters by 6 wickets
Citi Field, New York City, 7 November
Sachin's Blasters 140-8 (20 overs, V Sehwag 55, A Symonds 3-15, S Warne 3-20)
Warne's Warriors 141-4 (17.2 overs, R Ponting 48*, K Sangakkara 41)