USA news December 3, 2012

USACA eyes Associates in scaled-down league

Months after plans were outlined for a professional Twenty20 competition in the USA that was going to be so impressive there was talk of it impacting on the English season, it seems the reality of finances and availability has led to a marked downscaling of the scheme.

Rather than the big-name international stars originally suggested, USA Cricket Association president Gladstone Dainty has said that organisers will be looking for the best players from Associate and Affiliate countries to form the core of the competition. But that approach could also have major pitfalls by bringing USACA into conflict with other boards.

The competition is due to start in July 2013 and while Dainty admitted there had been unforeseen problems, he insisted it was still very much on course. "It will be a truly global set-up and emerging players - from the likes of Afghanistan, Ireland, Scotland, Kenya, wherever - will be given plenty of opportunity," Dainty told ESPNcricinfo. "In the USA we don't have this big pool of players so we will tap into the Associate and Affiliates and we also have New Zealanders to draw on. It's in this way we hope the cricketing world will support our efforts.

"It'll be a showcase and a stage where their players can be playing against the best. There will be financial incentives for their players and I don't think there will be a problem. It's not a long season and flying a player from Ireland or Scotland every week is certainly not a very expensive proposition."

Asked if availability of players in the middle of the European season would be an issue, Dainty said: "We would want them released … just as if an England player is released from their county to play for England. We don't want to stop the Irish and Scottish boards from doing things, we're just trying to put a quality product together and we will work with them to ensure we have access and can share them."

But Dainty's view on availability seems to be based on the requirements of boards to release players for international competitions - and the USA league would not class as that.

Cricket Scotland chief executive Roddy Smith, who said that he had not had any contact from USACA, told ESPNcricinfo: "The scheduling will obviously be problematic for Scottish players as it clashes directly with our home season. The primacy of international cricket is paramount as is the high priority CS places on its home non international and regional cricket.

"Contracted players will not be released if it means them missing cricket for Scotland. If there is a window where players are free, and our performance staff believe it is beneficial for all parties that they take part in a sanctioned ICC T20 event then their participation may be a possibility."

Those views were echoed by Cricket Ireland boss Warren Deutrom. "As in anything, our first thought is to be reasonable and provide an opportunity to our players if the schedule permits. As you know, a few of our non-county players have occasionally spent stints in county cricket for specific competitions - for example the ECB T20 - when we have no international commitments.

"Of course, the schedule is key here. Once we know the exact dates for the USA event, we'll be in a better position to know whether it conflicts with our existing commitments which obviously take precedence. USACA would need to seek permission of the counties to release those players during that period."

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