USA cricket August 16, 2004

Clayton Lambert - 'USA should be hosting the World Cup'

I haven't seen much top-level cricket lately, not even the current West Indies tour, because where I live in Atlanta, there aren't many satellite dishes available. I've been living in USA permanently since 1999, when I retired from international cricket after the South Africa tour.

I'm looking forward to the Champions Trophy, but I guess I don't have as much of a buzz as the other guys, because I've done it all before with West Indies. Still, there's no doubt that representative cricket lifts the spirits, and it's sure to be one of my biggest challenges. I'm looking forward to giving something back to a game that's been very good to me.

Cricket in the USA is mostly played at league level, and occasionally there's the chance to play regional cricket, which is the highest form of the game over here. So all in all, it's a bit less of a challenge, and it's nice to get out and do some serious stuff from time to time.

During my international career, I earned a reputation as a hard hitter of a cricket ball, although I was also capable of nice long innings as well. Admittedly, in our three-day Intercontinental Cup games, I've fared pretty badly, although that's largely been down to the indifferent wickets - they haven't been up to the standard that I'm used to.

The bowlers have dominated in the Intercontinental Cup, but in the one-day game I've done better. American audiences are used to more hustle and bustle in their sports - if a fan wants to see a baseball game, he'll give over one afternoon to do so - but three-day cricket is too time-consuming for this audience.

I was a bit stunned that USA missed out on hosting any matches in the World Cup - if cricket hopes to make inroads over here, it has to stick its neck out and have a feel of the market. There's not even any real need for the game to compete with the established sports, such as baseball and football, because there's a place for everything in America. There are a lot of dollars over here.

Besides, cricket is a very Commonwealth-orientated sport, so there is a huge immigrant population in the USA who are all yearning for the sport. League cricket is really exploding at the moment - last year in Atlanta, seven or eight new teams were formed, and you'd be astonished just how popular the game is in New York at present. All the more reason why the World Cup should be coming here.

There was a good atmosphere down in Florida for our Intercontinental Cup match against Canada last month, although sadly the pitch left a bit to be desired, and it wasn't a fair assessment of our skills. The Champions Trophy next month will a more relevant assessment of where we have reached as a team.

Basically, we are just a bunch of league players - amateurs taking on professionals - so we are going to be up against it in the competition. But we are sure to learn a hell of a lot while we are here. And next year, we'll be competing in a World-Cup qualifying tournament in Ireland, where the conditions are likely to be similar. So for us it is a win-win situation.

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