It comes as no surprise when the world’s fastest man Usain Bolt, says that the fastest form of cricket is his favourite one and feels more fans in the Caribbean and the world will choose the T20 format over Tests going forward.

Bolt, one of the greatest athletes of all time, wanted to become a fast bowler growing up in Jamaica, and now as the ambassador for the 2024 ICC T20 World Cup, he is getting to “live the dream”.

The world record holder in the marquee 100m and 200m called time on his unmatched career in 2017, and seven years on, his charisma too remains unmatched.

One could sense a child-like excitement in him while talking about cricket as he headed towards the makeshift cricket stadium in New York, one of three T20 World Cup venues in the American mainland and host to the India-Pakistan clash on June 9.

READ | T20 World Cup 2024: ICC ‘excited’ as cricket’s newest stadium launched in New York

“I grew up on cricket. My dad was a massive cricket fan and still is. It is something that I have always in my blood. To actually get to be a part of cricket again as an ambassador, is wonderful. I never got to live my dream of being a cricketer, so to be an ambassador of T20 World Cup is wonderful,” Bolt told PTI from New York.

He has spent the last months travelling the world for music and football among other things, and therefore, he has not got the time to watch live cricket on the TV.

He knows the IPL is on, but his schedule has not allowed him to binge-watch.

“I have not been able to watch as much as I would like to, but when I get time, I try to catch up on T20s,” said the ‘Lightning Bolt’.

Speed continues to excite Bolt the most, and no wonder he calls T20 the best format of the game.

“T20s for sure… When they started it was a great idea and still is. It compresses the game because you have to be strong and quick but also be strategic, set a field and get things done quickly. To me, it combines a Test match and one day to create the perfect game.” Bolt is not the only one in the Caribbean who is attracted towards the shortest format. The same goes for its elite cricketers, who are now admired more for their exploits in T20 leagues than what they do in West Indian colours.

Amid the T20 boom, Test cricket faces a grave threat in the region, and Bolt too only sees a bright future of the slam-bang format.

“I think the T20s and one-dayers (ODIs) are still massive in the Caribbean. People actually don’t enjoy Test cricket that much. It is all about the speed of the game, big hitters like Andre Russell, so for me that is the direction that is going in (the game is going in the Caribbean).

“It will bring more people to watch the sport. Because people love excitement. That is the key,” he said.

USA is hosting a global cricket event for the first time and despite being a game that is played by South Asian and Caribbean expats at the moment, Bolt believes the local American community will get involved with the game.

“I surely think the game can grow in the USA. When you have a presence in a country people start gravitating towards it and want to know more about it.” 

Bolt: Loved watching Akram growing up, Kohli is among the standout current cricketers 

Bolt may not have a lot of free time at his disposal, but growing up in Jamaica, he watched plenty of cricket with his father. Visuals of Wasim Akram castling the batters with his inswinging yorkers remain fresh in his memory.

“Over the years, one of my favourites growing up was Wasim Akram because of the inswinging yorker that he had. Of course, Courtney Walsh and Curtly Ambrose all these guys that I admired over the years, they were so dominant in their space.” Did he like anyone in the Indian team? “Like my father, I always support the West Indies (laughs). But yes, I have also been a Sachin Tendulkar fan. He and Brian Lara were part of my life growing up. It was a great rivalry,” he said referring to the two legendary batters.

Among the current lot, Bolt says “Kohli is the standout one for sure”.

When asked if there is a cricketer who has the slightest potential of being a sprinter, the showman in Bolt came to the fore.

“We have a running joke right now, me and Chris Gayle (both are close friends), he said he can beat me over 100 metres. We are looking to put out a race and see what happens (laughs).

“When it comes to speed I am the best, I don’t think there is any cricketer right now that can challenge me (laughs),” said Bolt, who is looking forward to returning to India in the near future.

His last visit to the country was in 2014.