March 28, 2008

USA

USACA elections: This time it's for real

Martin Williamson

This weekend’s USACA elections represent the last chance for stakeholders inside the country to end several years of massively self-destructive bickering and start rebuilding. The “last-chance saloon” tag has been used a number of times in connection with US cricket recently. This time it’s for real.

The main media attention, rightly, has been on the three-way race for the key role, that of USACA president. Over the last fortnight I have interviewed the gentlemen concerned and each of them has had an opportunity to put forward their vision for the future.

Outside the USA there is quiet but sincere interest in the outcome. The ICC, who in exasperation has suspended the US from the international community, is keen to see what the elections bring. There are those inside the US who see the ICC as either irrelevant to them or as being more in need of the USA than they are of it. Such views are utterly misguided. Without the ICC’s funding and, more importantly, recognition, the USA will become more of a cricketing backwater than Gibraltar or Thailand.

There are also commercial organisations waiting on the sidelines, as they have been for a year or more, with marketing and promotional deals that could bring millions of dollars into the US game for grassroots and national development.

The three candidates all have their strengths. Kamran Khan is well-known and respected as a player, coach and administrator; Ram Varadarajan is a self-made man with vision and a strong team behind him; Gladstone Dainty, the incumbent, has years of experience in office.

With respect to Khan, he seems to be the outsider. His campaign has been low profile and while he will attract some support, he does not appear to have enough broad appeal to win, although supporters of Varadarajan fear he might split the anti-Dainty vote.

Varadarajan ticks the right boxes, and while until a few months ago he was almost unknown outside Californian cricketing circles, his team has credibility and he is a man who outsiders could deal with. He also seems to have the passion and drive to turn things around.

It is hard to build a credible case for voting for Dainty. As USACA president he has overseen a period of chaos, international humiliation and squandered opportunity. Stakeholders have been ignored and kept in the dark, accusations of regional favouritism abound, and his board have operated in almost complete secrecy. There is almost nothing in the plus box. In fairness, Dainty still wants to finish the job and for that and his amazing ability to weather all kinds of storms, he deserves some credit.

But the real fear is that if Dainty wins then all that can be promised is more of the same. The deep rifts will remain, as will the international suspicion. And if USACA under his tenure has been unable to attract funding or support, why will anything change in the coming months?

For that reason, Varadarajan has to be the preferred candidate. The alternative is too depressing to contemplate.

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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 Roger Burrows, Canada on (April 1, 2008, 4:38 GMT)

Cricket in the USA will never develop beyond the grassroots whatever is done. Baseball will always rule as the summer sport and, unless someone can convince ESPN that cricket deserves a place on its schedule, only those who play the game will see it live. Unless cricket can produce a Tiger Woods type player who makes a breakthrough on the world stage, it is destined to oblivion.

Posted by Ralph on (March 28, 2008, 16:27 GMT)

I found Island's comment very interesting, and think that he/she has touched on a very important issue: just how well is the development of cricket in non-Test playing countries being managed? Yes, money is being thrown in many directions, and I think that a part of the ICC does genuinely care about development of the game, but I don't think there is nearly enough fine detail in the development plans.

Real development needs a careful construction of an infrastructure in which quality cricketers will naturally develop, and that requires a real investment of personnel and expertise, not money thrown at a central body - especially in a country as large as the US.

Where real progress comes from is exactly the kind of grassroots work Island talks about - the US is in a great position to develop in that it clearly has grassroots structure. What is needed is the next level of development.

Posted by Hammad Siddiqi, Cincinnati Ohio on (March 28, 2008, 16:14 GMT)

Kamran Khan seems to be the best choice. His credentials are impeccable and he knows the game. Dainty has to go, there's no two ways about it.

The only thing ICC recognition will bring is funding for grassroots and hopefully (I'm reaching here!) an international class stadium which can host matches between top quality teams.

Go Kamran!!!

Posted by Island Sweets on (March 28, 2008, 14:13 GMT)

As one who participates in a vibrant cricket program in the USA, this appears to be quite a negative view. The election will not change our expanding cricket program. Why is this a last chance?

The ICC funding is negligible to cricket in the USA. Recognition does have benefits.

Precisely! There are millions from folks wanting to benefit from the work done by the grassroots. They plan to spend millions and hope to walk off with billions? If these same folks (you seem to know) were really interested in US cricket, then surely this money would be now available to the hundreds of clubs spending millions every summer. The US cricket is far healthier than most cricket programs in the so call “non cricketing backwater world’. My league (22 teams) spends over 50,000 USD annually on cricket. Multiply that by 40 leagues in the USA. For this we get very little credit from your organization.

Let’s hope, as true stakeholders, and we suggest to the new body (leaders) not to succeed all rights to those ‘deep pockets’ so that the ones who have hoed the fields, become mere consumers of the processed crops.

Island

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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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