Indian cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar hopes to see cricket become a global sport by making an impact on the youngsters and women in America through the inaugural three-match All Stars series starting in New York on 7 November.
"The idea is to globalise cricket...We are here to encourage youngsters as well as women cricketers who will be joining us in our practise sessions," Tendulkar said ahead of the first match in the 'Cricket All Stars' series to be played on Saturday in the famed Citi Field.
Tendulkar, joined by Australian spin legend Shane Warne and 28 other players, said about 1000 young aspiring cricketers would be in the stands to watch the game and get a chance to witness and learn from their idols.
He said the cricketers participating in the series will be interacting with youngsters and other players to make them understand the intricacies of the game.
"We are here to guide you and encourage you. You need two hands to clap. Our hand is up and all the players are standing with us. It is for you all to step forward and make it happen," he said.
Tendulkar hopes that the series will build up momentum to have cricket re-introduced as an Olympic sport. The only time cricket was played as an Olympic sport was in 1900 between Britain and France at the Paris Summer Olympics. Later this month, the International Cricket Council will meet with the International Olympic Committee in Switzerland to discuss cricket's possible inclusion in the 2024 Games.
"The reason for picking up a cricket bat again after retirement is to globalise cricket. That is a dream and vision Warne and I have. One day we would like the American (cricket) team also to participate in the World Cup. It would be a great moment. All cricketers have also been endorsing for having cricket in the Olympics. This is the beginning," he said.
Warne said that he is planning to have 15 games over the next three years and if the inaugural series goes well, he and the teams would like to come to the US every year and have at least three games every season.
Tendulkar stressed that the purpose to bring cricket to the US is not to compete with the existing American sports.
"Americans love sports and cricket is one sport everyone is waiting to embrace. We are not here to compete against any sport. We are here to establish and popularise cricket in America," he said. He hoped that next time the cricketers visited the US they would be able to see an American kid holding a baseball bat along with a cricket bat.
Given that the series is a first not only for the players but also for America, Tendulkar said arranging for drop-in pitches and ground availability for the matches was a challenge.
"It has been challenging. It is the first experience for all of us in this series. But the least challenging thing was to bring all the players together," he said.
The first match in the cricket series will be played in the 45,000 seater Citi Field, the home of Major League Baseball's New York Mets. The teams - 'Sachin's Blasters and Warne's Warriors' - will play the T20 format. The players were assigned to the two teams through a draw of lots.
Tendulkar's team includes Indian opening batsman Virendar Sehwag, former Indian skipper Sourav Ganguly, VVS Laxman, West Indian captain Brian Lara, Pakistani bowling legend Shoaib Akhtar, and Moin Khan, former Sri Lankan cricket team captain Mahela Jayawardene, Lankan bowling legend Muttiah Muralitharan and former Australian cricketer Glenn McGrath.
Warne's team includes Indian cricketer Ajit Agarkar, former Pakistani cricketer Wasim Akram, former Australian cricketers Matthew Hayden and Ricky Ponting, former South Africa cricketer Jonty Rhodes, former captain of the Sri Lankan team Kumar Sangakkara, Pakistani cricketer Saqlain Mushtaq and former Australian cricket team all-rounder Andrew Symonds.
Tendulkar said while it has taken a bit longer for the game come to the US, he expressed hope that it is "never too late" for the sport to become popular in the region.
He also expressed gratitude to the ICC and hoped for continued support from the global body to popularise the game in nations where it does not have a following.