Next year, you might just see an American baseball player at the crease during an Indian Premier League (IPL) match. He’ll be facing professional bowlers, with just a few months of training in cricket.
As odd as it sounds, an upcoming American reality TV show will feature US baseball batters competing for a chance to play for one of the franchises.
Titled Million Dollar Bat, the show has been designed along the lines of Million Dollar Arm — a three-season-old show that scouted for pitchers, who ended up playing for Major League Baseball teams.
Both the shows have been conceptualised by sports agent JB Bernstein (whose life inspired Jon Hamm’s character in the film Million Dollar Arm) and his business partner, Ash Vasudevan.
Ash Vasudevan (centre) with Rinku and Dinesh Patel — the subjects of the film, Million Dollar Arm. In 2008, they won a reality show by the same name, and got to represent Major League Baseball team Pittsburgh Pirates despite never playing the game before.
Ash Vasudevan tells us that apart from presenting a sportsperson with an exciting new opportunity, this show is also a great way to introduce India to baseball and cricket to the US. "Before Yao Ming started playing in the NBA, the basketball viewership in China was fragmented. He opened it up and made it popular. Similarly, if you get someone from a particular country to excel in a sport at the highest level, you open up the market there," says Vasudevan.
The search for baseball batters will be held mid-2015, and winners will undergo three-four months of training before they make their IPL debut. "The two sports have some synergy, but they’re different too. Cricket has the Yorker; in baseball, you’re trained to leave such balls. There are many nuances that the players need to be trained in," Vasudevan explains, adding, "We aren’t underestimating the complexity, but we’re optimistic. There is a difference in terms of pitch size, speed etc., but the fundamental hand-eye coordination is the same, so, it’s just a matter of understanding a new sport."