Guest post by Darren Hodge: Usain Bolt to play in the BBL?

What is next for the fastest man on the planet?

With the Olympics done and dusted, the 6 x Olympic Gold medallist Bolt has his sights set on a holiday in Australia. He loves our country and our country loves him in return.

Australians have a habit of claiming athletes and celebrities that weren’t born here, but that normally stops at the border of New Zealand, occasionally moving into the USA (Nicole Kidman was born in Hawaii), but for this special athlete, we’ll extend the boundaries to Jamaica.

On a side note, if the Aussie women do the right thing, by the time the 2032 Olympics roll around, we could have the best relay team ever assembled.

Usain Bolt loves cricket, which is why Australia is one of, if not his favourite destinations in the world. He loves watching close friend Chris Gayle play cricket (and it helps that Chris can’t speak highly enough of our country and our love of cricket) and more importantly, Usain loves playing cricket as well.

Usain Bolt was invited by Chris Gayle to play in Gayle’s West Indies Cricket charity match in 2009, and clean bowled Chris Gayle. Bolt who considered a career as a professional cricketer before dedicating his life to athletic,s has skill and knows how to draw a crowd. He’s charismatic and likeable and people will flock to see him perform, whatever the sport.

Chris Gayle bowled by Usain Bolt.

Big Bash League team Melbourne Stars are hopeful that Usain Bolt will play for the side during Summer competition which runs from Dec 7, 2012 – Jan 19, 2013.

Usain Bolt presented with Melbourne Stars playing shirt.

Melbourne Stars confirmed they were in negotiations with Bolt and Australian cricket legend Shane Warne, also the Stars marquee player from last season and probably captain for the upcoming campaign (when he inevitably signs a new deal) launched a social media campaign to get Bolt on board. The Stars put off negotiations until after the Olympics and will let the dust settle after the Jamaicans exploits in London, before once again making contact with Bolt’s representatives.

Warne first tweeted: “Who would come watch @usainbolt play cricket for the Melb Stars in 2012 ? Should I continue chatting to him & try and make it happen ?”, before following it up with ”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 x”, “Please get my last tweet trending & R/T so we keep the momentum going it will help the cause,everyone jump on board if u want this to happen” and finally “I would really appreciate if you could retweet my tweet re Melb stars & Usain Bolt, promise it will help Follow me if you want updates guys”.

Melbourne Stars president Eddie McGuire first approached the 25-year old Jamaican about representing the Stars in June, whilst interviewing him for Foxtel as part of the Olympic coverage.

Each team is allowed two international players at any given time, the Stars have already signed Englishman Luke Wright and are also in negotiations with Sri Lankan fast bowler Lasith Malinga, so Usain Bolt faces stiff competition.

Bolt has also confirmed that Shane Warne has personally spoken to him about playing.

”He 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 Channel Nine.

“So we will see if I get the time off. I will try. Twenty20, I love it. 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.”

Cricket Australia’s Big Bash League project manager Mike McKenna is tentatively behind the idea of Usain Bolt playing, but is wary of the reasoning behind it.

”We would want to make sure that any athletes can play another code to an appropriate level … He’d need to be able to stand on his own two feet, both in terms of talent and from a safety point of view,” McKenna said.

If Bolt does choose to play, rivals teams would not cut him any slack, whether or not Bolt is prepared to face up to Brett Lee, Shaun Tait or Patty Cummins is another thing, he will also have to weight up the effects a serious injury may have on his athletics career and his aspirations for the 2016 Olympic Games.

With that all said and done, Usain Bolt definitely is keen to play, the Melbourne Stars and Shane Warne (who has not actually signed a deal for 2012/13 and beyond) seem very keen to get him on board and the Melbourne public are already talking about going to watch him play.

The Stars were losing semi-finalists in the inaugural Big Bash League last summer and they start their 2012/13 campaign with the Melbourne derby against the Renegades at Etihad Stadium on December 7.

Quite a few personnel changes have been made so far, beginning with Cameron White standing down as captain, Brad Hodge and Glenn Maxwell have crossed from the Renegades to the Stars, while George Bailey and Adam Voges have returned home to Tasmania and Western Australia respectively.

The current squad is: Jacskon Bird, James Faulkner, Peter Handscomb, John Hastings, Brad Hodge, David Hussey, Glenn Maxwell, Clint McKay, James Pattinson, Rob Quiney, Clive Rose, Matthew Wade, Cameron White and Luke Wright*.

IN: Brad Hodge, Glenn Maxwell, Clive Rose

OUT: Adam Voges (Western Australia), George Bailey (Tasmania), Jade Dernbach (released).

*denotes international player.