Cricket: Bid to get Bolt for T20 game step closer

By Dylan Cleaver

Talks are advanced on a deal that would see the world's greatest sprinter Usain Bolt play an HRV Cup cricket game in New Zealand in the new year.

Bolt, who defended his 100m, 200m and 4x100m Olympic crowns in London last month, will visit New Zealand next month to promote sports drink Gatorade and attend a Breakers training, but it might not be the last time we see him here.

If a deal comes off for him to play a Big Bash League match with Shane Warne at the Melbourne Stars, he could play a match here en route.

Essentially's Greg Dyer, who is involved in brokering the deal, confirmed they were in talks with the athlete's management about playing an HRV Cup game.

A backer has been found to stump up the "considerable" fee, though Dyer would not say which of New Zealand's six major associations would benefit from Bolt's fast-bowling "expertise".

It would be logical to assume that proximity to Auckland International Airport would make Auckland or Northern Districts the most likely destinations, with ND in particular never afraid to push the boat out on marketing themselves.

Dyer said the deal would be contingent on Bolt playing a game in the Big Bash, something that is still being discussed across the Tasman.

"First of all I believe him to be a very competent cricketer in his own right, based on the footage I've seen," Dyer said. "His participation for one game in our domestic T20 competition would attract a lot of interest, therefore bringing more people to the ground.

"It would also attract significant interest from around the world, which can only be good for the promotion of our domestic competition to a greater audience."

Bolt's participation would open up a debate as to whether the commercial imperatives outweigh cricketing ones.

Already there are some high up in cricket circles who are voicing their concerns that it could make a mockery of the integrity of T20 cricket and the HRV Cup.

Cricket's governing bodies have worked hard in recent years to convince the sceptics that T20 is a bona fide format of the game.

Having Bolt make a "celebrity" appearance could be construed as making a mockery of that.

Balanced against that is the obvious boost to the game, the competition and the sponsor's profile.

Few athletes in any sport have captured the public's attention like the 25-year-old Jamaican.

Bolt has transcended his sport to the point where he is as much a pop culture icon as a sporting legend.

- NZ Herald

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