Melbourne chasing Usain Bolt for Big Bash
The world's fastest man, Usain Bolt, could be steaming in from the Members End at the MCG this summer with an audacious plan hatched to have the Jamaican track superstar play in the Twenty20 Big Bash League.
The Melbourne Stars franchise has confirmed it is in negotiations with the six-time Olympic gold medallist and his management company and spin king Shane Warne, the team's marquee player, launched a campaign via social media on Sunday in an effort to build support for the recruiting coup. The move has the formative backing of Cricket Australia.
Bolt, who repeated his treble of gold medals in Beijing with victory in the 100 metres, 200m and 4x100m relay at the London Olympics, played junior cricket before ruling the track and has long voiced his love for the game. He famously clean bowled then West Indies captain and good friend Chris Gayle in a charity match in 2009, having earlier belted him down the ground for six, and the vision became popular on YouTube.
The 25-year-old was first approached about joining the Stars before the Games by the franchise's president Eddie McGuire, who was interviewing him in his capacity as a broadcaster at the London OIympics with Foxtel. Bolt said Warne had now spoken to him about playing in the BBL and he would consider whether to take up the offer.
"He (Shane Warne) contacted me and asked me about if I am serious and if I really want to do it then he can put in a few words that should get it done," Bolt told Channel Nine.
"So we will see if I get the time off. I will try. Twenty20, I love it. Just the fact that it is so exciting, it's about going hard the whole time, not just about playing shots. It's about being aggressive and I like that style of batsman.
"If I get the chance I will definitely try because I know it's going to be a lot of fun. I don't know how good I am. I will probably have to get a lot of practice in."
Melbourne Stars chief executive Clint Cooper said he would continue talks with the Jamaican, who claims he is an all-rounder, once the dust has settled on his brilliant campaign at the Olympic Stadium in London. "We're going to wait until the Olympics is over and re-engage with him and his management company," Cooper said. "We've got a couple of spots left on our list."
There was tentative support for Bolt's signing on Sunday by Cricket Australia's BBL project manager, Mike McKenna, although he would need assurances the sprinter was being picked on merit not as a novelty inclusion to attract spectators and television viewers.
"We'd be very keen to have someone like Usain Bolt involved in some way in the BBL," McKenna said. "He's very keen on cricket, he's been close to the Australian cricket team and I'd imagine he is pretty quick between the wickets.
"But we would want to make sure that any athletes can play another code to an appropriate level. The competition has gone beyond the novelty factor. We had Andrew Johns play (for NSW) a few years ago and that was good fun in those days but it's taken more seriously now. We've moved forward at a domestic level and it's an international sport with a World Cup. He'd need to be able to stand on his own two feet, both in terms of talent and from a safety point of view."
Rival teams would be unlikely to cut Bolt any slack, given the financial rewards on offer particularly for those that qualify for the Twenty20 Champions League and the fact that Australian players in the competition are auditioning for a place in the national T20 team. McKenna said Bolt would have to weigh up the potential impact on his athletics career as well.
"Whether it's a risk he wanted to take standing in front of Brett Lee and Patrick Cummins I don't know," he said. "If he plays for Melbourne Stars and there's a crunch game against the Renegades no one is going to hold back. There won't be any place to hide if you're Usain Bolt. But he's obviously a very talented athlete so he may be able to do it."