New constitution vital for USA cricket - Anderson
The ICC's head of global development Tim Anderson has said that the task of drafting a new constitution for USA cricket is the biggest priority following the announcement of four advisory groups this week.
A 10-person group has been formed under the title Sustainable Foundation and they are the ones tasked with forming the new constitution which is seen as a vital step in trying to pull USA cricket out of years of infighting and uncertainty.
"It's a difficult and complicated thing, the development of a new constitution, particularly given the diverse nature of the US cricket community," Anderson told ESPNcricinfo. "So I don't know how long it will take but it's obviously the most important thing that there is to do right now within the future of US cricket, to set up a framework or governance structure that enables the game to move forward."
The USA Cricket Association was suspended last year at the annual conference and given 39 terms and conditions to meet for reinstatement, which they have failed to meet. Part of the reason for the initial suspension, and inability to be reinstated, was that they failed to ratify a new constitution at each of their last three annual general meetings. Anderson denied that the instructions from the ICC to form a new constitution mean that USACA will definitely be expelled at the ICC annual conference in June, but conceded that "USACA probably wasn't best placed to do that piece of work".
"They don't represent the large majority of cricket stakeholders in the USA," Anderson said. "That was what was uncovered by the working group that put together the report that went to the ICC board last year and there's nothing to suggest that still isn't the case today.
"We thought it was better for us, after we went through the strategic framework exercise with the community, to develop a group that included people that are from within the USACA structure as well - they're not excluded, they're very much included - but was more diverse than just USACA to consider what a new constitution and new governance framework might look like.
"We're not sure what the group will come up with at this point but we think we've got a really strong and diverse group of people that have great expertise across the American sports landscape. That will include USACA, leagues aligned to USACA and not aligned to USACA. Our whole mantra around trying to unify cricket in the USA, which the ICC board wanted to do back in June last year, that holds very true in this exercise and that's what we're trying to do."
Anderson's determination to attempt to satisfy and unify the various groups in US cricket was most evident in the composition of the seven-man advisory panel on high performance. The group includes six people with extensive playing and coaching experience in international cricket or professional sports, including three former USA national team players and former West Indies international Ricardo Powell.
However, the seventh member of the panel, Mir Ali, is a USACA regional administrator from Chicago who has no high level cricket playing or coaching experience. Anderson justified his inclusion by reinforcing the ICC's position that the various US cricket groups need to be represented on each advisory panel.
"We want to try for all of these groups to be as representative as possible of all the various and diverse areas of US cricket, be that geographic, cultural, from a gender perspective and political as well," Anderson said. "There are various political factions in US cricket. USACA is the ICC's member in the USA and although it is suspended we felt it was important that we included people from within the USACA structure in all of the groups.
"We talked to USACA about that. Mir Ali is someone that is heavily involved and extremely keen to assist cricket both within the Chicago region and around the country. He was put forward by USACA as someone that they would like us to consider to be involved in one of the groups and we thought he was well suited based on his experiences in US cricket to represent USACA in that particular group."
While USACA has never had a female board member, Anderson said that picking seven women to be included as part of the 32 people on the four advisory panels was part of the ICC's effort to encourage more female cricket development. At the first two USA Combines in San Francisco and Florida last month in which female players were invited to attend for tryouts, only 16 appeared in San Francisco while just one pre-teenage girl came to the tryout in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
"Females are absolutely fundamental to the future of USA cricket," Anderson said. "The female involvement in cricket in the USA isn't significant. It's quite minimal in fact. We've got seven women out of the 32, which is significantly disproportionate to the amount of female cricket happening in the USA. But I think it's an indicator to how important we see women in the future of US cricket."
Above all, Anderson is hoping that the various groups represented on each of the four advisory groups will be able to cooperate and produce meaningful results, rather than hang onto past grudges as an impediment to making progress.
"We weren't sure of the reaction we were going to get but we're really satisfied that there's lots of people in the USA that want to contribute," Anderson said. "We thought that a bit over 150 [applications], people mainly from within the USA cricket community that wanted to be involved was a positive, strong response.
"It's important that people are aware that just because they may not like a person or what some person has done in the past, in order to take the game forward in the USA we need to put those things behind us and move forward in the best interests of the sport. The ICC board has been very clear that we believe in the best interests of cricket in the USA, we need to have a unified approach."
Peter Della Penna is ESPNcricinfo's USA correspondent. @PeterDellaPenna