MELBOURNE, Australia August 13 – Negotiations are under way for cricket-mad sprint king Usain Bolt to play in Australia’s domestic Twenty20 Big Bash League, with Shane Warne leading the campaign to bring him to Melbourne.
Bolt, hailed by International Olympic Committee chief Jacques Rogge as the greatest sprinter of all time after three gold medals in London, played junior cricket before turning to the track and has long voiced a love for the game.
He said he wanted to play and had spoken to the Australian former Test leg-spinner.
“He (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 Australia’s Channel Nine television late Sunday.
“So we will see if I get the time off. I will try.”
Cricket is hugely popular in the West Indies with Bolt’s Jamaica one of its strongest teams, producing greats such as Frank Worrell, Michael Holding, Courtney Walsh and Chris Gayle.
Bolt, 25, said he particularly likes the fast-paced Twenty20 concept, where each side tries to blast as many runs as possible in a maximum of 20 overs.
The format has spread around the world since it was introduced nearly a decade ago as a more exciting alternative to longer versions of the game and it is now part of virtually all international cricket tours.
“Twenty20, I love it,” said the sprinter, who describes himself as an all-rounder and told Australian media during the Olympics he planned to holiday Down Under in September.
“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,” he added.
The eight-team Big Bash League, featuring privately owned city-based franchises, begins its second season on December 7 with the final on January 19.
It was launched last year, aiming to attract a new youthful audience with an emphasis on energy and a fast-paced atmosphere.
Warne, who is expected to play for the Melbourne Stars for a second season this year, has begun a social media campaign to win support for Bolt to play with the team.
“Cats out the bag, we’ve spoken. Olympic legend @usainbolt would like to have a crack at 20/20 for the Melb stars 2012 Please retweet guys,” tweeted Warne.
“I think the Melb Stars colours suits him hahah,” he added, referring to their green and white kit. “Let’s keep the momentum going & I will keep trying to make it happen!”
He won support from fellow Australian and Hollywood superstar Russell Crowe, who tweeted: “Usain Bolt playing cricket for the Melbourne Stars?? @warne888 how amazing would that be? If you need sluggish medium pace, let me know.”
According to Australian media, Bolt clean-bowled then West Indies captain Gayle in a charity match in 2009, having earlier hit him down the ground for six. Gayle plays for Sydney Thunder in the Big Bash League.
Melbourne Stars chief executive Clint Cooper said he would talk with Bolt once the dust settles on the Olympics.
“We’re going to wait until the Olympics is over and re-engage with him and his management company,” Cooper told Melbourne newspaper The Age on Monday.
“We’ve got a couple of spots left on our list.”
The Melbourne Stars currently features Australian internationals David Hussey, Brad Hodge and James Pattinson, as well as English all-rounder Luke Wright.
Bolt has also said that he would like to try his hand at football, with Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand tweeting during the Olympics that he would have a word with United manager Alex Ferguson.