'Love to see all countries play in World Cup' - Warne
Shane Warne has said he wants to see as many countries as possible play in a World Cup and hopes fans now watching the Cricket All-Stars tournament might one day turn up one day at the showpiece event and represent America.
"We all think it's a global game and would love everyone to play the game of cricket," Warne said in the post-match press conference in Houston on Wednesday, after his Warriors beat Sachin Tendulkar's Blasters by 51 runs.
The Cricket All-Stars series has been billed as a means to expand the reach of the game, but it comes at a time when the ICC has shrunk the number of teams participating at a World Cup to 10, limiting the chances of Associates like the USA taking part. Warne was asked of this disparity and he replied by saying he thought the ICC "are trying to do the best they can by the game of cricket."
"All we can do is do our part," he said. "And that's why we're [the All-Stars] here in America playing the game of cricket and trying to promote the game of cricket as best we possibly can. We would love to see all the countries play in a World Cup but at the end of the day, the ICC are trying to do the best they can by the game of cricket.
"America only just missed out on the last [T20] World Cup. So hopefully we can see America playing in a World Cup down the track and maybe one of these kids or some of these guys that we've coached in New York or Houston or maybe in LA, we might see them in one of the World Cups down the track and that would be absolutely fantastic."
The crowd in Houston was modest - the 42,000 capacity stadium was less than half-full - but rowdy. The overwhelming majority at both Citi Field in New York and Minute Maid Park here were either South Asian immigrants, who grew up watching cricket in the subcontinent, or their American-born children. When asked if he felt the matches had succeeded in making a connection with the wider American community, Tendulkar acknowledged that there was still a ways to go.
"I think we'll have to take gradual steps," he said. "We're not going to get 25,000 Americans watching overnight but it has to start somewhere. I'm sure among these spectators, even if there are 2% Americans, then that 2% is better than nothing. Over the years, cricket was not played here at this scale. Now slowly, slowly it's going to start. The whole idea is to try and motivate as many youngsters as possible to pick up a cricket bat, which we've been doing.
There have been rumours that the Cricket All-Stars plan to come back to the USA annually, but there is no guarantee. If they do come, it's difficult to envision Houston as a repeat destination based on the crowd turnout when there are alternatives such as Chicago or San Francisco to check out. Despite that, Warne was effusive in his praise for the city and the stadium.
"I think all of the players enjoyed the facilities at the stadium here. As an annual event, we'd love to come back to America every year. All of us, everywhere we've been so far, we've been welcomed. I think everyone, the amount of those who've said thank you for bringing cricket to America. It's our pleasure to be here, to have us in this great country and for all the players to be playing. Whether we come back to Houston? We hope we can because we've been treated wonderfully well here."
Peter Della Penna is ESPNcricinfo's USA correspondent. @PeterDellaPenna