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

 

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