Million Dollar Arm: How two Indian boys went from cricket to baseball

New York: Disney has released the first trailer for its Million Dollar Arm inspirational sporting biopic, before its May 16 launch. The film tells the true story of former cricketers Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel, who stumbled on an unusual path to baseball thanks to winning contracts through the 'Million Dollar Arm Hunt' reality TV show staged in India.

Mad Men‘s suave Jon Hamm, stars as JB Bernstein, a real-life sports agent, who discovered Patel and Singh through the reality TV show he staged in India by auditioning roughly 40,000 cricket players.

A still from Million Dollar Arm. Image courtesy Disney

A still from Million Dollar Arm. Image courtesy Disney

Singh and Patel had never held a baseball until May 2008, when they became the winners on the reality show and got a crack at making a career in America's national pastime. The cricket-loving duo adapted surprisingly well to baseball and developed effective pitches which topped out at around 90 mph on the radar gun.

Singh, a son of a truck driver, is a professional left-handed pitcher with the Pittsburg Pirates, while Patel returned to India a few years ago after his career with the Pittsburg Pirates ended. Patel has since taken up athletics and participated in several Indian national level competitions.

Life of Pi star Suraj Sharma portrays Singh, Madhur Mittal plays Patel, while talented American actress-writer Lake Bell, Alan Arkin and Aasif Mandvi round out the rest of the strong cast.

The film trailer has echoes of Tom Cruise’s 1996 hit Jerry Maguire about a sports agent seeking a radical new path. It shows the two Indians soldiering on bravely in tackling a foreign game and foreign country.

“These kids are my last best shot,” Hamm’s character Bernstein says at one point after bringing the 18-year-olds back to the US to train with legendary pitching coach Tom House (portrayed in the film by Bill Paxton).

Bernstein’s goal was to get the boys signed to a major league US baseball team which eventually pans out with the Pittsburg Pirates picking up both of them. Singh became the first Indian to appear in a professional baseball game in the US on July 4, 2009. He pitched the seventh inning, while Patel pitched the eighth inning.

“This is the most amazing thing I've been part of," Tom House, University of Southern California pitching coach and former major league pitcher, who spent months training the duo, told me a few years ago.

"This is like medical science. It's turning raw athletes into pitchers.”

Million Dollar Arm has been filmed in Mumbai, Atlanta, and Los Angeles. The music is composed by double Academy Award winner AR Rahman and the film is directed by Craig Gillespie.

Watch the trailer below: