Jayawardene proposes All-Stars v USA in future
Former Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardene has proposed having greater participation from the USA national team players in future endeavours involving the Cricket All-Stars, including the potential for a USA v All-Stars exhibition match.
"If the opportunity arises, the ideal scenario would be for an All-Star team to play the USA team, if we come next time around," Jayawardene told ESPNcricinfo in Los Angeles, during the final stop on the Cricket All-Stars tour. "If you get a few of the younger guys involved in it, who have just recently retired, you can probably have a good game. You can give [USA] an opportunity to play a match against some of the good players. I still think guys like Warney [Shane Warne] and Murali [Muttiah Muralitharan] probably still can bowl the way they were bowling. So it is a great opportunity I think."
According to several sources, a push was made behind the scenes by local officials to have USA players included in the actual All-Stars squads. At the top of the list was Barbados Tridents wicketkeeper-batsman Steven Taylor, while several other USA players who were recently chosen to be a part of a combined ICC Americas team to play in the 2016 WICB Nagico Super50 were also believed to be in the mix.
Instead, a compromise was reached to have USA national and regional players serve as net bowlers in the All-Stars training sessions, with two players designated as 12th Man for either team in the games in each city. This allowed local talent to participate in the festivities and soak up tips from the All-Stars. Jayawardene is vouching for them to get more genuine opportunities on a follow-up visit though, describing their skill level as "quite good" through his interactions with them on tour.
"They were getting tips from Warne and Murali and [Glenn] McGrath and all these guys, it's fantastic for them," Jayawardene said. "That kind of interaction for them, you understand the game in a better way, how it works in the mind as well. So it's a great opportunity, and this is just at practice. Imagine if you could get those guys to play in tournaments as well and proper matches.
"That's something that we could look forward to if everything goes well, and something that US cricket could come up with and see whether they can have a match organised. There are opportunities and things we could try to do to get the profile of cricket in the US to a different level. If we are to promote the game and to get the kids involved and get the ball rolling, I think we just need to keep doing these kind of events on a regular basis."
Jayawardene recalled his visit with the Sri Lanka team to Florida in 2010 when they played New Zealand in the first two T20Is by Full Members in the USA. At the same venue, USA played Jamaica separately in a pair of T20 matches that were scheduled as a doubleheader alongside the Sri Lanka v New Zealand matches. Jayawardene said he felt there is no reason why a tri-series or other multi-team tournament cannot be organised instead to give Associate teams opportunities against Full Members.
"It gives them a bit of exposure so that people get to see where they are and what needs to be done to improve," Jayawardene said. "[The All-Stars] is just a byproduct I think and you need to make sure the international game should come here as well, especially places like Toronto where you have good cricket grounds.
"We went there [in 2008] and it was a good tournament as well. Pakistan, us, [Zimbabwe] and Canada played in it as well, so it gave their guys a national opportunity. So we should try to see whether that kind of tournament can be organised on a regular basis."
Peter Della Penna is ESPNcricinfo's USA correspondent. @PeterDellaPenna