Former Australia legspinner Shane Warne has said he is excited to "create history" by bringing his Cricket All-Stars joint venture with Sachin Tendulkar to the USA next month, while also hitting out at criticisms regarding the pricing of tickets and age of players involved in the event.
Earlier this week former Australia captain Ian Chappell had been critical of the plans for the event on Chappelli Calls It, a video series on ESPNcricinfo. The tournament will feature two teams of retired players, some as old as 52, playing three exhibition Twenty20s in New York, Los Angeles and Houston. "I've always thought that the reason for retiring is that you wanted to stop playing," Chappell had said. "The other thing I don't understand is why people want to watch older cricketers.
"At the end of his time with the Melbourne Stars, Shane Warne was struggling in the field as you would expect with someone in their 40s. Your back gives you trouble, you can't bend over as easily, catches that you used to take very easily you can't get down very far to take them. You start to look like what you are, an old cricketer."
Warne said he was disappointed with Chappell's comments. "I think it's a bit harsh for Chaps to say that," he said. "I would have thought he would have seen the bigger picture about spreading the game of cricket globally, and that actually we're doing a good thing if we make sure these games are fun and entertaining."
"There are a lot of people in America that have never seen some of their idols play. They've got their chance for the first time to come to the stadiums and actually see some of their heroes play. I think that's a very exciting thing. We're going to be putting on free coaching clinics for schools, all sorts of stuff. I think it's disappointing that Ian has that view."
When asked about the pricing of tickets - $50-$175 in New York and Houston, with the majority of tickets at $175, and $325 in Los Angeles - Warne said: "They're [Major League Baseball Divisional Series playoff tickets] $30-$150, we're $50-$175, so that's pretty similar there. There's lots of entertainment at the grounds too. We've got some pretty big name DJs coming, got cheerleaders and all sorts of action-packed stuff. I think the ticket prices are reasonable."
Ticketmaster's online booking system in Houston, though, reveals that less than 1,500 tickets were sold at the 41,574 capacity Minute Maid Stadium in the 36 hours since tickets first went on sale. The majority of those tickets sold were in the $50 and $75 price brackets. Also, there were concerns about fans attending a mid-week event in the daytime in Houston, resulting in the start time changing from 2 pm to 7 pm.
The other major concern for organisers in New York City is the weather. Warne acknowledged that is an issue. "The last two years in New York, November the seventh, it was 20C two years ago and there was some snow last year," he said. "So we're hoping and keeping our fingers crossed that the long-range forecast looks pretty good."
When asked why the Central Broward Regional Park in Florida, USA's only ICC-certified cricket-specific stadium, was bypassed, Warne said: "We've got iconic players, we've got iconic baseball stadiums, we thought it was a fantastic fit. We thought a drop-in pitch in a baseball stadium is a pretty unique thing to do and that's why we're sort of making history."
Warne said Simon Taufel and Marais Erasmus will be the standing umpires at the event, and the match referee will be Ranjan Madugalle.