If just two months ago, someone had told me that I would be able to sit in Minute Maid Park and watch a live cricket match featuring some of the best former players in the world, I would’ve laughed it off. But thanks to the Cricket All-Stars Series headed by two of the greatest to play the game- India’s Sachin Tendulkar and Australia’s Shane Warne- what was once a dream was now a reality. Uncontrollably excited for what was surely to be a once in a lifetime event. I bought my tickets to the match the day they were released to the public, anticipating this marvel.
Entering the stadium, the sea of Indian, Pakistani, Australian, English, South African, West Indian, and even Bangladeshi and Nepali cricket jerseys really demonstrated just how much cricket had grown in the United States. The first glimpse of a cricket pitch laid out in the middle of a baseball was surreal and the short boundaries ensured we were in for a high scoring affair. The crowd numbered 28,000; a solid crowd for a mid-week cricket match in Houston, and was on its feet as Pakistan’s Shoaib Akhtar, the fastest bowler in the world with a recorded speed at 161.3 km/h, charged into England’s Michael Vaughan for the opening delivery. Shane Warne’s team appeared to be the superior side with the presence of recently retired batsmen Kumar Sangakkara of Sri Lanka and South Africa’s Jacques Kallis. This proved to be true as they began the match with a flurry of boundaries and sixes (home runs). However, Graeme Swann the former English international took the first wicket for Sachin’s Blaster quickly followed suit by Australia’s Glenn McGrath taking the second and the crowd appeared to be in for one heck of a game.
Kallis and Sangakkara soon entered and promptly managed to lead Warne’s Warriors to an immense total of 262 runs scored which included 21 home runs! A highlight of the match was definitely the Minute Maid train moving after every six which eventually turned out to be an extremely busy evening for the conductor. Then came arguably the most exciting moment of the night. Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar, two of the greatest Indian batsman of all time strolled out to the middle to begin the innings for Sachin’s Blasters. The atmosphere was electric with Pakistan’s Wasim Akram set to begin proceedings bowling to the two Indian batsmen. Unfortunately for the Indian fans in the stands, Sehwag was dismissed quite cheaply and the rest of the Blaster’s lineup followed suit, eventually collapsing and losing the match by 57 runs.
Despite the fact that the match ended up being a blowout, this was a monumental event that can hopefully set the norm for the growth of cricket in this country. Cricket is a sport that is embraced in all corners of the globe- from Guyana and Namibia to the Netherlands and even Papua New Guinea- and it’s surely time for America to embrace the second most popular sport in the world. All three matches in the United States- New York, Houston, and Los Angeles were huge successes with massive turnouts and that’s honestly an encouraging sign. With this event set to be an annual occurrence, I cannot wait for the next opportunity to watch my favourite player’s deck it out in my hometown.