Cricket may be India's number one sport (I'm sorry I lied, it's number one, two, three, four, and five) but the ol' 'bat and ball' is still relatively anonymous in the USA outside the fanbases of Commonwealth descent. So it is with an intention to promote the game in this untapped market that two Twenty20 international matches have been scheduled between the national teams of India and West Indies in Florida this weekend. And in a move to promote cricket to Americans, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) have also ended up reverse promoting our favourite sport here - basketball - to an Indian audience.
cricket and basketball united as three members of the Indian cricket team visited the facility of the 2012 and 2013 NBA Champions Miami Heat - the American Airlines Arena - in Florida. Star spin bowler/All-Rounder Ravichandran Ashwin, batsman Shikhar Dhawan, and fast-medium bowler Bhuvneshwar Kumar were part of the BCCI contingent that visited the home of the Heat, where they were hosted by young guard Tyler Johnson and undrafted rookie Briante Weber.
Rajlaxmi Arora reported the news on the BCCI website:
The trio were hosted by the latest recruit of Miami Heat - Tyler Johnson as he gave them a walk through their locker room, team meeting room, gymnasium and recuperation centre at the American Airlines Arena.
Briante Weber joined Johnson in hosting the Indian trio as they explained the techniques involved in Basketball to the Cricketers and showed off some moves. The group then got involved in a session of Basketball in the practice court.
The cricketers enjoyed their experience at the court with some engaging discussion with the NBA stars. While Shikhar and Bhuvneshwar were chatting up with the hosts, Ashwin seemed to have gone back to his school days of playing basketball.
Speaking about his visit at the Miami Heat home arena, R Ashwin said: “I’ve played a bit of basketball during my school days, so that got me really excited while I tried my hand at it again after so many years. I am thankful to both Weber and Johnson for taking time out and showing us around their home turf.”
Bhuvneshwar Kumar said: “It was great to see these guys and learn about their game. I was impressed with the facilities here and it was a learning experience for me to see the amount of technology being used in sports science.”
“It was great fun,” exclaimed India opener Shikhar Dhawan. “I am very happy we could make it here. Exchanging thoughts about how sports has transformed with the latest technology is always good. While I tried to explain these guys how Cricket is played, they in return taught me the finer details of basketball.”
Udonis Haslem of the Heat and upcoming young point guard D'Angelo Russell of the Los Angeles Lakers.
As an Indian and an NBA fan, I love this union. Hopefully, Ashwin, Dhawan, and Bhuvaneshwar can introduce some Indian cricket fans to the NBA, too. The Heat in particular, who have lost LeBron (to Cleveland), Wade (to Chicago), Bosh (to a serious and uncertain health condition) and their local fanbase (who're just late to the arena), could certainly use some new fans to count on for their support.