New York Giants' Odell Beckham Jr scores a touchdown against Dallas Cowyboys

Bend like Beckham: Odell Jr can single-handedly bring down the rate of sixes hit per game

© Getty Images

High Fives

Make America great again (in cricket)

Five US legends who should have given cricket a go

Peter Della Penna |

Odell Beckham Jr
One of the most electrifying athletes on the planet, the New York Giants wide receiver shot to instant superstardom in his National Football League (NFL) rookie season in 2014 by taking a one-handed catch - or, to be precise, a three-fingered one - while falling backwards along the sideline for a touchdown during a game against Dallas Cowboys. In the two-plus years since, he has provided no shortage of highlight reel catches.

Even though he's listed at 5'11", Beckham Jr's speed, unusually long fingers and leaping ability position him to make catches few would even dream of getting a hand to. Forget about batting and bowling, Beckham would be an instant legend in T20 cricket as a boundary-riding dynamo.

Every match would hold the possibility of another insane catch. Being the true entertainer that he is, Beckham would also rival Dwayne Bravo in the celebration-dancing stakes. It doesn't hurt - for global recognition purposes - that he shares his surname with that other guy who married a Spice Girl.

Serena slams: T20 cricket would  get a new megastar if only a franchise would sign Ms Williams up

Serena slams: T20 cricket would get a new megastar if only a franchise would sign Ms Williams up © Getty Images

Serena Williams
Ahead of the 2014 Australian Open, Williams picked up a bat as part of a PR shoot with Melbourne Renegades, atop a Melbourne building. Often commentators talk about a hit so big it almost cleared the roof but Serena actually pulled it off, hitting Muttiah Muralitharan's famed doosra so long and hard, it can be pinpointed as the exact moment that ended Murali's T20 franchise career.

Serena has 23 Grand Slam tennis singles titles and another 14 Grand Slam doubles titles with her sister Venus, as well as four Olympic gold medals. The day she rocked Murali showed she has no problems hitting a ball coming off the bounce. Replace her racquet with chunk of willow and her vicious two-handed backhand would be easily converted into a devastating back-foot cover drive, a punishing cut shot, or a mighty heave over midwicket. If she can dispatch Murali with ease, watch out Ellyse Perry and Anisa Mohammed.

Al Michaels, after you're done explaining the lbw law to Americans, try your hand at deconstructing the umpire's call in the DRS, will you?

Al Michaels, after you're done explaining the lbw law to Americans, try your hand at deconstructing the umpire's call in the DRS, will you? © Getty Images

Al Michaels
Currently the lead play-by-play commentator on Sunday Night Football broadcasts, Michaels has had an illustrious career across a variety of sports. His most famous call might have been when he yelped out, "Do you believe in miracles? Yes!" after USA defeated Russia in the semi-finals of the 1980 Winter Olympics ice hockey. He was on hand in San Francisco during the earthquake that postponed Game 3 of the 1989 World Series.

In addition to NFL, Olympics, hockey and baseball, Michaels has also called golf, basketball, horse racing and boxing. However, to appreciate how truly versatile he is, and how adept he is at picking up the nuanced aspects of offbeat sports, take a look at his performance in the David Zucker film BASEketball.

Quite simply, few people in the current American sports broadcasting landscape have the gravitas or skill set to move seamlessly from one sport to another while maintaining quality. Adding Michaels to any cricket broadcast would give it the recognition that lets American viewers know this is something worth tuning into.

Cricket needs Roger Goodell (left) because we don't have enough controversial administrators

Cricket needs Roger Goodell (left) because we don't have enough controversial administrators © Associated Press

Roger Goodell
The NFL Commissioner since 2006, Goodell has been a driver of expansion for the sport in numerous ways. For international viewers it has meant his determination to have regular-season games played outside of America, beginning with one game in London in 2007. A decade later, there will be four games in London and one in Mexico City soon.

Viewing options have also grown with Goodell at the helm. Before he arrived, the only Thursday football seen during the season was the traditional Thanksgiving Day double-header featuring Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys. Now there's a Thursday game throughout the season. Last year the league experimented with live-streaming one of its London games on Yahoo and this year multiple games have been broadcast globally on Twitter.

But where Goodell might come in most handy is for his crisis-management skills. The son of a former US senator from New York, Goodell has been the league's frontman to skate around Spygate, Bountygate, Deflategate and the player-concussion epidemic, not to mention the 2011 Player Lockout and 2012 Referee Lockout. Were he in charge of US cricket administration, the constitutional and other governance issues that led to three ICC suspensions would have been small potatoes compared to what he has had on his plate for the last ten years.

Coach Pop, we're sending your CV to the West Indies Cricket Board, aight?

Coach Pop, we're sending your CV to the West Indies Cricket Board, aight? © Getty Images

Gregg Popovich
"Coach Pop" has won five NBA titles as the man in charge of San Antonio Spurs. It may not be as many as some other esteemed coaching legends, but Popovich's tenure as a leader is somewhat unique, given the group of players he assembled to achieve greatness.

Tim Duncan, who was the centrepiece of most of those championship-winning teams, came from the US Virgin Islands. The 2003 title team was the first to feature Argentina's Manu Ginobili and Frenchman Tony Parker. The most recent title, in 2014, included another role-player from France, Boris Diaw; Patty Mills, the Australian; and Brazilian reserve Tiago Splitter.

Throw in all the American talent over the years, stretching from David Robinson and Sean Elliott to Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard, and it takes a special coach to make players from so many different backgrounds come together under one vision. His pedigree is underscored by his being selected as the next coach of the USA men's Olympic basketball programme.

Popovich has the résumé to navigate the politics in the melting pot of the American cricket landscape, to get the immigrant Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Sri Lankans, Jamaicans, Guyanese, Bajans, and a few Americans to see eye to eye on the field. He'd also fit right in with the ICC-approved inoffensive media policy, as he has the art of the bland interview down pat.

Peter Della Penna is ESPNcricinfo's USA correspondent. @PeterDellaPenna





  • POSTED BY Ron on | February 5, 2017, 15:39 GMT

    @ESPN30857310, OMG bro leave it alone! I have said it previously as well, I have nothing against America or baseball. Americans are nice people usually and I do watch an occasional game of baseball on the telly but articles like these I cannot stand. I am not going to get in a point scoring / shouting match here so have a good time and enjoy, no need to get riled up every time. As for the 'simpleton' jibe, I was not the one who made that Forrest Gump level observation in the other article "India should be so afraid of a 14 yo baseballer if he ever plays cricket in Ind".

  • POSTED BY Weird on | February 5, 2017, 14:52 GMT

    Actually, @HADESLOGIC is spot on...

  • POSTED BY legnakavon on | February 5, 2017, 2:21 GMT

    @hadeslogic. Again, no matter what the topic, you turn it into a diatribe against baseball. You are so anti American and anti baseball. And again I'll write MLB attendance last year was over 73 million and you'll come back that there are around 2400 games played so that's around 30,000 per game. Then you'll point out some BBL matches draw more or games in India draw more. But hundreds upon hundreds of MLB games draw over 40,000. The AVERAGE is 30,000. Baseball is not the least followed of the four major sports in America. You sound like a simpleton.

  • POSTED BY Rob on | February 4, 2017, 22:21 GMT

    Re MCSDL... First recognized International sporting event Ever! Canada vs USA. Think it was 1844. Henry Chadwick,often referred to as the Father of Baseball covered sports for the New York Times...main sport Chadwick also developed Box score...ERA...and a few other baseball 'items'...from his knowledge of cricket. Was it great? Opinion...but it was certainly very popular until supplanted by baseball after the Civil war. The author of the above article obviously knows this.

  • POSTED BY Ron on | February 4, 2017, 20:40 GMT

    Why this fascination with bringing America into the cricketing pool? That nation is too self centered anyway to play any real global team sport. I mean football has not really managed to capture their attention despite its commanding global presence, deep funding and simplicity. What makes anyone think that the American public will ever take to cricket with all its nuances? Even their own baseball is probably the least followed of all the major team sports. And even if they do somehow take a liking to it, they will just incorporate that interest, create a World Series of Cricket, play it year round in the US with local teams and forget about the real world, lol.

  • POSTED BY timmyj7044252 on | February 4, 2017, 19:42 GMT

    Well, ICC, while we speak, can make a huge difference regarding the course of cricket in America with the new North American Development Manager they're in the process of hiring. If this person is going to be like those who've held the job in the past the cricket drought will continue. If ICC has the guts to think outside the box and bring in someone who can connect with mainstream Americans it could be the start of the revolution.

  • POSTED BY mrmela3572787 on | February 4, 2017, 16:11 GMT

    icc has failed to promote cricket worldwide...even worse is that the current number of playing nations is dwindling...this sport will reduce to five or six nations in the future if the present state of event remained unchanged

  • POSTED BY Bruce on | February 4, 2017, 13:23 GMT

    No baseballers in the list? Derek Jeter would captain my US XI any day....

  • POSTED BY John on | February 4, 2017, 10:33 GMT

    @MCSDL there was a reason why Australia toured North America 1878 [mostly forgotten] as part of its England tour! US was a major power in cricket in the 19th Century, but could not join the Imperial Cricket Council due to it not being part of the Empire.

  • POSTED BY Ben on | February 4, 2017, 7:54 GMT

    How could you not include Bo Jackson?!?!

  • POSTED BY marino on | February 4, 2017, 7:53 GMT

    Wrong Title... 'Make America great again in Cricket'... Has Cricket ever been great in America in the past....?

  • POSTED BY Dik on | February 4, 2017, 4:48 GMT

    "Five US legends" *Lists OBJ* Sorry, OBJ is no legend. Jerry Rice is a legend. Montana, Young.