Problems hamper USA preparations
USA's senior and Under-19 teams are scheduled to compete in several major tournaments over the next five months. However, USACA is currently struggling to figure out the best way to prepare them.
USACA is planning on having its National Championship in Fort Lauderdale, Florida from November 13 to 15. The tournament was originally scheduled to take place from October 9 to 11 in Houston, Texas, but officials wanted to move the event to Florida to give players competing for spots on the national teams the opportunity to play on turf pitches, as opposed to the matting wickets used in Houston and around most of the country.
Florida's venues would provide them necessary preparation for when the United States travels to Dubai for the 2010 World Twenty20 Qualifier from February 9 to 13 as well as to Nepal for the World Cricket League Division 5 from February 20 to 27.
The National Championship will pit four regional teams, which qualified through USACA's Eastern and Western Conference tournaments, against each other in 50-over matches on November 13 and 14 to determine the national champion.
November 15 was intended to be used as an opportunity for players from these squads to be selected to face teams from Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago in Twenty20 matches, but those plans are now on hold because a financial agreement hasn't been reached to lure the teams from the Caribbean to play on US soil.
"We would have picked the best team we have and played Jamaica and Trinidad," said Krish Prasad, chairman of USACA's cricket committee. "Seeing that that is not likely to happen, we will have to come up with a different structure, because we're going to Nepal and Dubai to play Twenty20 and Nepal to play 50 overs. We've got to come up with a plan to facilitate both teams' preparations."
Another problem in selecting the senior team is trying to get the entire short list of 40 probables an opportunity to play and be evaluated when some of them belong to regional squads that were eliminated in the tournaments leading up to the nationals.
"Hopefully we have, I think 90% of the players in the four regional teams," said Prasad. "We've already selected 40 players to get there. We're going to have to somehow get all those 40 players there. The ones that are not from the regions that's going to be contesting in the national tournament will also be invited there to participate maybe in the Sunday tournament or something like that.
"But we have to come up with a way of getting these guys there. The original plan we had was going to work well, but unfortunately that's not going to work. So we're going to have to get everybody there because we can't select 40 guys and then don't take them to a trial to see who's the best team that we can send to Dubai and Nepal."
Other financial issues are also a consideration in the planning process of the weekend. The matches for the USACA National Championship will most likely be played at Brian Piccolo Park rather than Central Broward Regional Park because USACA is reluctant to pay for the Broward stadium's rental fees for a non-revenue generating event.
"If the stadium was available, we could have used the lights in there and played two night games also," said Prasad. "That was the plan if the Jamaican team was going to come, because that would be a revenue generating opportunity." According to Prasad, it would cost $2,500 per match to rent the facility.
USACA's financial constraints are also having an effect on the Under-19 squad, which is set to compete in the 2010 ICC Under-19 World Cup in New Zealand from January 16 to 30. A training camp had been planned to take place concurrently with the senior tournament in Florida, but those plans have been shelved for the time being.
"The junior team, we were hoping to get them there at the same time," said Prasad, "but because of the funding situation, we are just going to sort of keep them on hold for now and hopefully get them into some sort of practice sessions, playing a couple of games and fitness because I think our major problem with the Under-19 has been their fitness.
"Living in the United States, they don't play cricket every day in the summer and when they went to that tournament [Under-19 World Cup Qualifier in Toronto], it showed that nine games in 13 days was a little bit too much for our boys. We learned that we need to get them physically fit for this tournament that's going to be starting in New Zealand in January."
There is hope that the situation will change in the near future though as USACA is currently trying to lock in a commercial partnership to generate significant funding to be used for improvements both on and off the field.
"We are looking at these commercial programs, which the CEO [Don Lockerbie] is pursuing as we speak," said Prasad. "So if that comes through in a couple of weeks, we could be in a very good position financially to start some very good programs. But like everything else, we have always been hampered by financial problems and once again we are encountering the same thing."
Martin Williamson is executive editor of ESPNcricinfo and managing editor of ESPN Digital Media in Europe, the Middle East and Africa