Cricket All-Stars Series November 12, 2015

The '90s show is back, so is the lost childhood

Sachin Tendulkar and Shane Warne face a dilemma in their attempt to sell the game to a new audience, but for fans of a certain vintage it's nostalgia that continues to win the day
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Some moments need to be frozen in time.

Like at the start of the eighth over of the second innings in the second All-Star Series match in Houston, when Shane Warne brought himself on to bowl. Sachin's Blasters were 69 for 2, chasing a mammoth 263. Brian Lara was on strike. Sachin Tendulkar, who had just pounded his buddy Ajit Agarkar for two sixes and a four, was shadow-batting at the non-striker's end. Kumar Sangakkara stood behind the stumps. Ricky Ponting and Jonty Rhodes patrolled the off side. Jacques Kallis hovered on the leg side. Wasim Akram and Saqlain Mushtaq weren't too far away.

Warne drifted one towards leg; Lara unfurled a sweep to fine leg: four. Warne shortened the length; Lara flicked square: no run. Warne threw it up outside off; Lara waltzed down the track and tonked it over Warne's head: four more. This was straight out of a time-capsule: watching Lara dismantle Warne, ball after ball. And waiting for Tendulkar to do the same when he got the chance. The crowd at Minute Maid Park were in thrall. For a brief few seconds the asking rate of around 15 appeared gettable. "That '90s Show," said a banner, "My childhood is officially 'back'."

A couple of minutes later Saqlain came on and did what he often did in the late 1990s: he shattered all illusions. First he fooled Tendulkar with a flighted ball that dipped, rapping him on the pad; next he fired a quicker one that skidded on, struck the pads and ricocheted onto the stumps. Saqlain turned around in half-appeal but quickly realised he had got Tendulkar both lbw and bowled. Not for the first time, he stunned many Indian fans in the crowd into silence. Saqlain got Mahela Jayawardene in his next over. And Andrew Symonds soon dismissed Lara. The game was up.

This was only expected. As in the first game in New York, Warne's Warriors were too strong for Sachin's Blasters. Sangakkara, Ponting and Kallis seem focused enough - and fit enough - to consider unretirement. And Rhodes is still an asset with the bat and on the field. Andrew Symonds and Matthew Hayden occasionally bring out bullet throws. And Saqlain and Akram have retained bits of their magic. Heck, even Michael Vaughan smashed a six (something he hadn't managed in his two T20 internationals).

Sachin's Blasters have struggled with the bat, hardly inspired with the ball, and found it hard on the field. This is not meant as criticism. Of course these players shouldn't injure themselves trying to dive on the boundary line, of course they can't be faulted for their ageing bodies and slow reflexes. They are trying their bit but, as one would expect, haven't been able to turn back the clock.

But that doesn't take away from the tricky dilemma the organisers and players must soon confront. Tendulkar and Warne have emphasised that this is their attempt to globalise cricket, a serious venture where they hope to inspire kids and introduce Americans to the game. Tendulkar has said T20 offers the best of both worlds: a great chance for entertainment as well as a window to the game's intricacies. He says he wants to see many young Americans play the game at some point in the future and the stars have spent a bit of time with kids in New York and Houston. Some members of the US national team have also been part of the nets; a local cricketer, Usman Rafiq, even fielded for four overs on Wednesday.

On the other hand are the games themselves, mostly one-sided and often lacking intensity - exactly the kind of attributes that you wouldn't want when trying to sell T20 to a new audience. Outfielders have taken selfies with fans, yet Shoaib has not held back when it comes to sending down bouncers. Fun or serious? Serious or fun? With four balls left - in a hopelessly one-sided game on Wednesday - Shoaib walked in to bat without a helmet. Symonds bounced him. Fun or serious? Serious or fun?

Again, maybe that is beside the point. For the moment, many fans don't seem too perturbed. Nostalgia continues to win the day. For Madhav Nyapathi, 33, a Houston-based chemical engineer, here was a chance to go back 15 years, to a time when he followed cricket closely. "I haven't watched a full match since 1999," he says, "just snippets here and there. But I came to the stadium because this game seemed like the 'Greatest Hits of the '90s' on a video tape. I never imagined I would see Sachin and Lara batting together, facing Akram and Warne. This is crazy."

His friend, Vijay Raghunathan, a safety consultant based in Houston, hasn't watched a full game after the World Cup final in 2011. "I somehow thought that was the end of my cricket-watching experience," he says, "because since when I was a kid I had so badly wanted India to win a World Cup. When they won, I just moved on. But this game is making me feel young again. If it happens next year, I'll think of coming back."

And as was the case in the first match at Citi Field, fans flocked to Houston from various parts of north America. There were groups from Chicago, Austin, Dallas, Colorado and Indiana. There was a group from Saskatchewan in Canada and a man from Antigua, here to watch Lara. Many of them came with dhols, flags, cricket jerseys, whistles and banners. There were loud cheers and passionate chants. There was plenty of banter among the Indian and Pakistani supporters, including from one group of Pakistani fans who baited the Indian fans with chants of "mauka mauka" soon after Tendulkar got out. Within a few minutes, though, it was all hunky-dory. The same group chanted: "Saaachin, Saaachin."

Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is a writer based in the USA

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • anthony on November 17, 2015, 2:33 GMT

    Cont"d .the pluses are overall all things considered it was a hugely entertaining spectacle.but this " world series" should be held twice a year.....once in america and once in hong Kong/taiwan/macao to tap into the chinese market...look at how huge sports like snooker and pool are there .cricket would be huger. For a first edition it was great stuff. One thing id cut out is the during match earpiece interviews with players,it demeans the contest....but again it was a great success,on the pitch in no small part due to the charm.and humility of the most modest sachin....one last note it would have been nice to have Zimbabwe represented by heath streak. Others id like to see in next year,ryan harris,gilchrist, and a wild card viv richards,

  • anthony on November 17, 2015, 2:24 GMT

    My suggestions based on 60 years of watching cricket 1) sachin was always going to bring in crowds to the venues but he isnt as good a spokesperson or publicist as a warne, vaughn,sangakara or a flintoff or akram. Too often it seemed a promoting sachin rather than promoting cricket exercise.2) the tv commentary and production didnt do enough to explain rules to a new watching audience and again it was too much about promoting sachin to the already converted (ie existing indian cricket fans , this was a huge mistake.2) the t20 format and the sands of time favour batsmen over bowlers, so more effort needs to be made to balance the squads.as great as it was to see them walsh,donald and pollock ,agarkar were too far gone to participate on a pitch with v recently retired sanga,kallis,jayaward,Ponting...id suggest bowlers like brett lee,flintoff,mitchell johnson and tait r bought in complemented by akram,Ambrose,mcgrath and akhtar who are still pretty good.the spinners were marvelous

  • kalvin on November 16, 2015, 4:01 GMT

    They should get shane bond, brett lee, adam gilchrist, chanderpaul, gibbs, sanath jayasuriya, rahul dravid, hussey, chaminda vaas, dishan, misbah-ul-haq, andrew flintoff and anil kumble. I enjoyed the game still.

  •   Ifthikhaar Kareem on November 15, 2015, 10:02 GMT

    I noticed there's a very young looking Saqlain Mushtaq photo under 'squads.'?

  • Lalith on November 14, 2015, 1:51 GMT

    Some mentioned that all people came to see only Sachin. Although Sachin team lost both matches most people enjoyed the class of Sanga. That is what Sachin's batsmen missing. Sachin needs to borrow Sanga for the last match.

  • Dik on November 13, 2015, 22:15 GMT

    It would've been more successful had they organized these games with the teams of the stadiums they're playing in. Mets have a smaller fanbase in NY but they were just in the World Series. Dodgers have a big fanbase in SoCal. Why not work with them to promote your game? Why not have their players be involved in it? Why not invite those players and other celebrities? I know why. That'd cost more money. And this wasn't really about promoting the game, and attracting new fans. It was about making some money from the expats in the US.

  • Sharky on November 13, 2015, 22:00 GMT

    I'm looking forward to to see the 3rd match and I hope I can follow next years Series too. It makes it more interesting to see the mixed up of different age players. I can think of more legends that can join next years Series. John Davison from Canada who smashed 2003 World Cup's fastest century. Gibbs, Anil Kumble, Inzaman Ul Haq, Flintoff, Gough, Makaya Ntini, Jayasuriya, Gilchrest, Shivarine Chanderpaul, Chris Cairns, Mohammad Ashraful, ect...

  • Sharky on November 13, 2015, 21:45 GMT

    This All Stars Cricket is the best series I've seen since the world cup. Usually I'm not into T20 cricket except when the model girls are dancing ;) But with these old legends T20 makes sense. It was great so far the see every legend that played. Not all of them were consistent in the All Stars Series, but all of them had at least a ball or more where they showed why they are considered the legends of cricket. I'm not bothered that players who retired 14 years ago, still play. They can still entertain. It is just that the more recent retired players are more fit and more consistent. It is really interesting to see the mixed up between the long time retired players and the recent retired players. But the balance between Shane's team & Warne's team is unfair. Kallis, Ponting and Sangakkara shouldn't be in the same team. I feel if Sangakkara was at least in the Shane's Blasters & Moin Khan and Jayawardena was in Warne's warriors, then it would have been more fair. I'm looking forward to t

  • Tim on November 13, 2015, 16:04 GMT

    Yeah, if they run something like this again they need to include more recently retired internationals, not the 40/50 year olds. 90% of the attendees came to see one person, Sachin. Include him to draw in the expats but need younger guys to showcase the game's true skill and athleticism.

  • Protap on November 13, 2015, 13:22 GMT

    @RAMANSILVA: Because there is a huge difference between a "STAR" and a "MINISTER".

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