USA fast-tracked into the big time
The ICC has thrown the USA an unexpected lifeline by inviting them to take part in the ICC World Twenty20 Qualifiers in the UAE later this year.
After several years of infighting, including two periods where the USA Cricket Association was actually suspended by the ICC, the team currently languishes in the lower regions of world cricket.
However, the ICC's development committee decided to fast-track the team into the Qualifiers which features the six Associates with ODI status alongside hosts UAE. This will be greeted with anger by the many countries above the USA in the global pecking order, not least Namibia, the Associate on the periphery of joining the top six, who have been hit below the belt for the second time in as many days.
On Tuesday, they were excluded from the top flight of the Intercontinental Cup after the ICC decided to restructure the competition, partially to accommodate Zimbabwe, and now they find that they have been leapfrogged by the USA.
"For the USA the tournament represents a wonderful opportunity to move towards a brighter future and exploit its potential after a period on the fringes following previous suspensions and demotions because of administrative issues," explained Haroon Lorgat, the ICC's chief executive. "The ICC has strategic plans to target and strengthen the game in potential growth markets and the USA, with its player base, development potential and cricket broadcast interest, now backed with a new professional administration set-up, has obvious potential in all these areas."
Lorgat's comments suggested that the decision owed little to cricketing credentials and almost everything to commercial and marketing opportunities. How that will sit with other Associates remains to be seen. The last global event USA participated in was the ICC World Cricket League Division 5 in May 2008 when they lost to Jersey in the semi-finals.
"Twenty20 is the perfect vehicle for cricket to excite the USA," Lorgat added. "The carrot for its players and administrators is that a top-two finish will earn it a place in the main event which is to be held in its own region."
Martin Williamson is executive editor of Cricinfo and managing editor of ESPN Digital Media in Europe, the Middle East and Africa