June 25, 2007

USA

The last last-chance saloon

Martin Williamson

The cricket world - or at least those running the game in countries from Australia to Zambia - assemble in London this week for their annual get-together. However, there will be a notable absentee. For the second time in three years, there will be no representation from the USA.

While the US might not be a major player on the field - it would probably rank just outside the top ten Associates if it ever managed to take to the field - but it does control one of the game's biggest and potentially most lucrative markets. It also is home to one of the most dysfunctional and unaccountable boards, the USA Cricket Association, and it is its ongoing shenanigans that have twice caused the ICC to suspend it from the international game.

A fortnight ago, in Washington, the two factions claiming to have the right to run the game in the USA met with Ken Gordon, the WICB's president, acting as peacemaker. The irony of Gordon, head of a board under fire from almost every side and millions of dollars in debt, being asked to sort out someone else's dirty linen caused more than a few wry smiles. But the two-day sit-down ended with a brief statement that the two sides had agreed to work together to resolve their problems.

The announcement was hardly a hold-the-front-page moment. For one thing, although there are thousands of players in the USA, and millions of fans, the USACA has almost no affect on anything they do. As one administrator told me, it could disappear tomorrow and nothing would change. The other issue is that both parties agreed not to say anything. To anyone.

Secrecy has been one of the major gripes against the USACA. It says almost nothing to anyone, and the tiny ruling group has been known to shut out its own directors if it sees fit. So while those who cared might have hoped that a deal would herald an era of transparency, they were instead given a familiar wall of silence.

The immediate reaction was here we go again. A decade ago the West Indies board, represented by Julian Hunte, sat down in New York with warring factions inside US cricket and reached a similar agreement. The USACA president since shortly after then has been Gladstone Dainty, a man of monosyllabic answers on the rare occasions he deigns to talk to the media. But despite all of the positive words, nothing changed. Elections were disputed, allegations of serious governance issues circulated, and a decade on, the running of the game continues to be a shambles that would disgrace a banana republic.

But the agreement reached on June 10 in Washington - for a new independent panel to review the much-maligned constitution and then for fresh elections before the end of the year - has to be given a chance. While there is every reason to suspect that nothing will change, the US has no choice but to wait and hope.

The independent panel - and it is that - should be in a position to hand down its findings within a couple of months. Unlike the heavily criticised and rushed election in February, the next ones, set for November, should be open and above suspicion.

For the time being the stakeholders have to trust Dainty - although they have a million reasons not to - and rely on him to deliver what he and others have promised. The time to deliver a verdict on his achievements will be in November when, by all rights, he will be sent packing

One of the main failings of the USACA is that it appears to operate under the grossly misguided belief that the international cricketing community needs it more than it needs them. While the dollars available from staging third-party matches in the US is a lure, that can be done without involving the USACA if push comes to shove.

The ICC is weary with the antics of a cricketing small fry. It has tried to help but by asking the WICB to act as broker it has probably offered its final olive branch. Much is at stake. Aside from funding from the international coffers, if the US stays suspended then the national team cannot play at any level. There is also the small matter of the pending Centrex deal relating to marketing cricket and staging international matches in the USA. If that goes through then it could bring millions into the game. But it relies on a credible and transparent board. The lack of that already scuppered Project USA.

So the next six months is make-or-break for US cricket. For the last time, stakeholders have to keep fingers crossed and hope that, finally, Dainty and his associates do the right thing and act in the interests of the game. There is every reason to doubt they will, only this time if they get it wrong, there may be no way back.

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Martin Williamson is executive editor of ESPNcricinfo and managing editor of ESPN Digital Media in Europe, the Middle East and Africa

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Posted by josh gibson on (July 3, 2007, 8:09 GMT)

Why don't the USA players and management go to US schools and have coaching clinics then maybe they might be good. most of the team is foreign and i think that they are heading down the wrong track.

Posted by Paul Ward on (July 2, 2007, 5:29 GMT)

I have been involved in cricket in Arizona for over 15 years, first as a player, then as an umpire, team manager, league secretary and chairman. During that time, the Arizona Cricket Association has grown from four teams to sixteen and has participated in, and hosted touring teams from, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Philadelphia and Utah. All of this has been WITHOUT the support of the USA Cricket Association which has provided absolutely ZERO help.

However, let’s face the facts: Cricket is growing in the USA, but in almost all cases it’s due to the influx of immigrants from other cricket playing nations. The good news is that this influx is expected to continue as more professionals make their homes here. There are many cases of cricket being spread among our schools and I have personally witnessed the beginnings of sons (not daughters yet, I regret to report) of players who are coming into the game.

The best thing for the future of cricket in the USA as a whole is for the ICC to investigate in-depth where the strength of cricket in this nation is - which is at the State and/or Regional (sub-state) level. Once that strength is confirmed, then the ICC should BYPASS the ineffectual USACA and establish an ICC governing board whose goal it will be to nurture this level of cricket.

We do not expect the ICC to do everything for us. But please provide us with more visibility during our negotiations with Cities and Towns, their Parks and Recreation Boards and the Mayors and Councils that give these boards their direction. Help provide us with the ability to purchase solid liability insurance (without being beholden to the ineffectual USACA).

Please DON’T give a pile of money to a bunch of self-serving individuals under the guise of organizing a national team. Such a team will, eventually develop when the USA National Government decides to support it. That is never going to happen with the current crop at the USACA in charge.

There are many instances of State and Regional organizations that are helping grow cricket – just look at the forthcoming L.A. Open, July 13-15. Teams, leagues and tournaments are already happening, but they will become stronger and the level of cricket will increase as facilities get built and personnel re-enter the game as supporters and spectators. Eventually, players will turn into coaches, grounds-keepers, umpires, team and league organizers, secretaries, chairmen and presidents and so on. Then, maybe, we can worry about competing at the international level.

The naysayers (even some of those on this very page) know the truth. It will happen but, to borrow an analogy from the movie “Being There”, it is first necessary to water the roots, for the garden to flourish. The roots are at the State and Regional level. Unfortunately, as far as the current USACA is concerned, it is also necessary to do some weeding.

Posted by Texan on (June 28, 2007, 15:47 GMT)

It is heartening to see so much interest in cricket in USA. I have played cricket since my arrival in this country in 1974. In Houston we started with one team in 1975 and now we have about 32 teams. I also got involved in organizing the league and running it. Houston Cricket League is one of the premier league in country and it is run very well by volunteers. I do not see any problem of racism or nationality favoritism here. We have great administrators from India, Pakistan, West Indies, Australia, England and Zimbabwe to name a few. I do not know anything about other regions but we have very good working relations with players from all ethnic backgrounds. Like some people from NY area criticized West Indians, which is not fair. I have known many great dedicated West Indian cricketers and administrator who have done great job to promote cricket in USA. Because of few bad apples we can not criticize the whole community. Yes USACA has been run by few of those bad apples but every cricket loving person wants to do a good job and like Martin Williamson said in this article that next six month is very crucial. We have promoted youth in Central West and all the four leagues in CW-Houston, Dallas, Austin and Colorado have many dedicated administrators who have done excellent job even with out getting any support from USACA. Austin has a great youth program, in Houston we have gone to different schools to demonstrate cricket to American kids and many kids enjoyed it and some of the teachers have asked us to come back again. We hope to expand that program in the coming year try to get some school district to introduce cricket as an option in PE Class. If any one has any good ideas and how to do it, let us know. As for USACA, I will ask all the concerned cricketers to be vigilant during next six months and try to get right people elected from your leagues and regions when the elctions come around. Specially people in New York region, New Jercey,Washinton DC, Philadelphia, Florida and Central East-Chicago, St. Louis, Minnesota and Michigan. North East have some good administrator and they need to keep track up there. People in Atlanta-Ga, North Carolina also needs to send right people. Spread the word and elect the best people who care for cricket. In Houston some of the teams spend great amount of time and money to promote cricket and that starts with the making great cricket fields. Our club has spent over $40,000 to make a ground on the land own by Gujarati Samaj and we are working with Gujarati Samaj to build a $3-4 Million Community Center on same property so cricket will be part of our future community activity. Do not give up just try harder and do your best for the game you love the most.

Posted by Kingsley Pearce on (June 28, 2007, 13:22 GMT)

Cricket in the US cannot compete with baseball but it can be a significant player in international cricket.

Population and wealth alone tells us that it can be done but as has been mentioned cricket in the US is very secretive. In fact I often joke that the US Cricket Association is almost a secret society and participation is by invitation only.

Here in Rochester New York it is almost impossible to find out when games are being played. Emails and phone calls to the USACA offering to volunteer and help go unanswered.

There are so many people here in the US playing the game and wanting to watch it. If Lacrosse and Ice Hockey can be mainstream sports covered by cable and sattelite then so can cricket.

Don't ever lose hope.

Posted by George on (June 28, 2007, 11:50 GMT)

In most American sports the outcome is known withing a couple of hours sometimes less. To entertain a game where after five days, lunches, water breaks and tea times you still have no decision is not appealing. The short version 20/20 perhaps will have a chance if marketed properly.

Posted by david on (June 28, 2007, 2:41 GMT)

The USA, like Canada have similar problems faced by the West Indies, everybody wants to govern cricket, but it's worse since people from all over the cricketing world live in the USA and they all want to stake their claim.

Posted by Sohail S on (June 27, 2007, 16:00 GMT)

What we need is someone with credentials being given the mandate by the ICC to run cricket here. It would be nice to say outsource the entire operation to an IMG so they can promote and build cricket up from the grassroots, and reap the benefits when they do arrive.

This is a country that helps hundreds of startups survive and grow. I cannot see why it is difficult to get rid of all the factions that lay claim to running cricket here and give it to a Professional Organization run by real managers and cricketing visionaries.

Posted by Soumitro Chowdhury on (June 27, 2007, 11:41 GMT)

No, in USA no tournaments should be held where Australia and India will play, as suggested by Mr. Vivek. Because India will be thrashed very badly by Australia in every match and the matches will be too dull. That will not do any good for promoting cricket in USA. I don't expect any good show from the Indian team as they had a humiliating defeat against Bangladesh in the last world cup.Yes, twenty20 cricket is the only way to promote cricket in USA. ICC should arrange regular twenty 20 cricket tournaments with quality teams like Australia, South Africa, Sri Lanka and England.

Posted by Rick on (June 27, 2007, 8:36 GMT)

In 1979-80 a Barbadian cricketer named Grantly Riley started a cricket program for youngsters in Manhattan through PAL and there was quite a good response from the youth and two schools in the Bronx He even had a demonstration game by the youngsters on 5th Ave. in Manhattan and I saw a large number of people stopping to watch,with interest in the game .so I agree with the gentleman who suggested to introduce it in the Elementary schools I believe cricket will take root if the West Indians in this country could muster the courage to get past the insularity that now prevails among the leaders of cricket in this country

Posted by Trevor Chesterfield on (June 27, 2007, 5:14 GMT)

It's seventeen months since the last youth World Cup in Sri Lanka when the USA were represented by a group of talented players that were part of the future of the game in that country. What has happened since? Dainty Gladstone and his robber baron cronies have robbed them of their heritage and future and sacrificed the path of future youth pro grammes through selfish indulgences thar has allowed their egos to get in the way of the sports progress. The ICC have more than enough concerns and this dysfunctionally ruining the sport in the USA should remember also that since admitted as an associate member in 1965, the game has gone backwards because of cronyism and robber baron policies. After a century South Africa were able to get their act together, but the ICC cannot wait for the USA to sort out their mess. It's time the ICC placed the game in the hands of its own hand-picked committee and run the game from Dubai. It can't get any worse. Trevor Chesterfield

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Martin Williamson
Executive editor Martin Williamson joined the Wisden website in its planning stages in 2001 after failing to make his millions in the internet boom when managing editor of Sportal. Before that he was in charge of Sky Sports Online and helped launch and run Sky News Online. With a preference for all things old (except his wife and children), he has recently confounded colleagues by displaying an uncharacteristic fondness for Twenty20 cricket. His enthusiasm for the game is sadly not matched by his ability, but he remains convinced that he might be a late developer and perseveres in the hope of an England call-up with his middle-order batting and non-spinning offbreaks. He is now managing editor of ESPN EMEA Digital Group as well as his Cricinfo responsibilities.

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