May 8, 2014

The baseball-cricket crossover

ESPNcricinfo staff

The upcoming release of Million Dollar Arm, a movie based on the story of two Indian cricketers who signed professional Major League baseball contracts after winning a reality TV contest, prompts the Guardian's Andy Bull to ponder the relationship between the two sports. With the rise of Twenty20, the lines between the skills used in the two sports are blurring, as shown by the appointment of Julien Fountain, who played baseball for the British national team, as coach of the South Korea cricket team.

While he was on holiday in Sri Lanka this summer, Fountain went to watch a match between a local side and a touring team from, you'll never guess, South Korea. This year's Asian Games are being held in Incheon this September, and, as with the 2010 edition, the 2014 Asiad will include a T20 cricket competition. As hosts, the South Koreans have decided to enter a team. Trouble being that outside of the ex-pat scene, the country isn't well stocked with cricketers. But what they do have, of course, are plenty of baseballers. They won the Olympic gold in 2008, and silver at the 2009 World Classic. Well, you can see where this is going.

Fountain is now the head coach of South Korea. He is trying to create a T20 team out of a bunch of baseballers. He remembers that match in Sri Lanka, he told Al Jazeera, because "the funny thing was that they made a lot of basic mistakes but they still posted 165 in 20 overs. And they even had 59 dot balls. It's monstrous - they just hit." Fountain says: "They're beginners but it's cheating to call them that. Show me a beginner cricketer who can hit the ball 110 metres. I've got an opening batsman who hit 90 runs last week. He took the opposition apart."