Dubai: When Rinku Singh won the 'Million Dollar Arm' show in 2008, the Indians' 'Great American Dream' of playing professional baseball became a reality and now the promoters of that very contest want Americans to realise the 'Great Indian Dream' of playing in cash-rich IPL.
India's Dinesh Patel (left) & Rinku Singh who went on to play for MLB's Pittsburgh Pirates after winning the Million Dollar Arm contest. Pic/Getty Images
Sports agent JB Bernstein and partner Ash Vasudevan, co-creators of 'Million Dollar Arm', that gave Rinku a chance to become a professional pitcher (thrower), yesterday announced a cricket reality show 'Million Dollar Bat' to find baseball batters to compete for the chance to play cricket in the Indian Premier League (IPL).
In fact, the tournament does have the blessings of BCCI with all-powerful IPL COO Sundar Raman giving his vote of confidence for the event. "Anything that helps grow the game of cricket and bring new talent in is very welcome," Raman said. "When we went to India no one had ever heard of baseball. We 'borrowed' the American Idol format, replaced the microphone with a baseball, and followed the old adage:"Show me a guy, who throws hard and I'll teach him how to pitch," said Bernstein, here on Wednesday.
It is a two-day conference with experts from the fields of sport and other major events looking to take Dubai's lead in winning and hosting major world events. Bernstein goes onto recollect," Along came Rinku with his 88 miles-per-hour arm and the naturally talented Dinesh Patel and the rest as they say is history. Now we're looking to do it again but with cricket.
"Having spoken to a number of professional baseball players and cricketers myself, there is a great deal of crossover between the two sports especially in terms of hand-eye coordination and I'm confident that we'll find ourselves, a US-born IPL star," he added. In fact, a Hollywood film by the same name was released, last May, based on the lives of Rinku and Dinesh.
Rinku's role was essayed by 'Life of Pi' hero Suraj Singh while American actor John Hamm portrayed Bernstein's character. In 2008, Rinku and Dinesh, two aspiring javelin throwers, became the first Indians to sign a professional sports contract in North America after beating 37,000 hopefuls to win Bernstein's reality TV contest and joining Major League Baseball's Pittsburgh Pirates, despite neither of them having ever thrown a baseball before.
Rinku, who is also in Dubai, said:"I still can't really believe the journey I've been on since 2008. I've heard JB (Bernstein) say that no one really believed in the 'Million Dollar Arm' idea, when it was first brought it to the table. "But here I am in Dubai, sitting alongside him and Ash, my story is now a Disney motion picture, played by Suraj," gushed Rinku.
"This new contest (Million Dollar Bat) gives someone the chance to change their life. I know a few hitters back in the US, who will be keen to give it a go." Dinesh, on his part, added:"I'm living in India again at the moment and looking forward to welcoming the winner of the Million Dollar Bat next year. It's a total role reversal and I think fans -- baseball and cricket -- in the US, India and beyond are going to be watching with real interest to see who makes the cut."
Bernstein and Vasudevan also announced the launch of Season-3 of the 'Million Dollar Arm' talent-hunt, with a view towards creating a Bollywood version of the Disney hit in 2015 through a newly-formed film firm called Aspire Entertainment. The Bollywood version will be told mainly from Rinku and Dinesh's perspective, flipping the Hollywood script which centred on Bernstein.
Speaking from the Ritz-Carlton Jumeirah hotel venue of the summit in Dubai, Vasudevan said:"It's really exciting. We're offering someone from the US the rare opportunity to throw themselves into a totally different sport, in an entirely different country, and to go up against the very best in front of a huge audience.
"Anyone wondering just how big cricket is only needs to look to the immense following the IPL has in India and right across the region; we¿re offering an opportunity to be a part of that."