Cricinfo exclusive January 23, 2005

ICC slams US board's 'poor administration'

Ehsan Mani and Malcolm Speed: 'We question whether the current administration of USACA can play any constructive role in taking the game forward in the United States' © Getty Images
The ICC has delivered a damning criticism of the USA administration, rather against its own insistence that it does not get involved in the domestic affairs of its members. The ultimatum issued by Ehsan Mani and Malcom Speed, its president and chief executive, to the USA Cricket Association told it to get its house in order or face the consequences.

The letter, sent to Gladstone Dainty, the USACA president, reads as follows:-

"Dear Gladstone

We refer to our letter of 1st November 2004. We note that we have not received a reply to that letter.

We note further that we have not received your response to the comments we made concerning the proposed Memorandum of Understanding dealing with Project USA. We note further that we have not received the brief initial report concerning the USACA's governance review that was requested by 11th October 2004.

We note that in the meantime, we have been copied with numerous letters to and from you that indicate that USACA has plunged into further disarray.

Further, we have witnessed the abysmal performance of the USA cricket team at the ICC Champions Trophy.

Our overriding response is one of amazement. USACA has been trying for many years to arrange for Full Member countries to come to the USA to play international cricket. ICC has put in place a mechanism to enable this to happen. The initial feasibility study carried out by Gary Hopkins indicates that this project has the potential to generate large amounts of money over the next 2-3 years. This money will be applied by ICC for the furtherment of the game in the USA.

We have now been approached by other countries that would like to replace USA as the preferred partner of ICC to deliver international cricket matches.

Please be advised as to the following: In the event that ICC does not receive USACA's agreement to sign the Memorandum of Understanding for Project USA, by 1st February 2005, one of the following two responses will follow:
a) ICC will cancel the project; or
b) ICC will work with another Associate Member country to stage the proposed matches in that country.

Gladstone, as a final comment, we have seen numerous sporting organisations in various states of disarray throughout our period of involvement as sports administrators. We have never seen a sporting organisation that combines such great potential and such poor administration as USACA. From our observations, much of the blame for this lies with the current office bearers of USACA including yourself. We question whether the current administration of USACA can play any constructive role in taking the game forward in the United States.

Yours sincerely

Ehsan Mani, Malcolm Speed"

The ICC letter blew the lid off one of the most closely guarded secrets in the history of US cricket. For nearly a decade, it has been assumed that the ICC had no interest in US cricket, and was turning a deaf year to all entreaties to step in and clean out the mess. The first complaints were either ignored or routinely referred back to the USACA as "the only ICC-authorised organisation in the United States of America".

Emboldened by this ICC "mantra", the USACA turned away several attempts to reform US cricket over the years, citing its ICC-derived authority as the "imprimatur" for its actions. As the USACA structure atrophied in the absence of any real reform, the USACA board of control grew increasingly ineffective, and its executive ceased to communicate to US cricket and even among themselves.

What has emerged in recent years is suspicion of a growing feeling within ICC circles that US cricket is far too important and valuable to be left to its own sordid devices. For one thing, the number of regular US cricketers, which has been growing exponentially over the past decade, is now larger (at 16,000-plus) than anywhere outside the Test-playing countries. Then there are the estimated 5 to 8 million US immigrants from cricket-playing countries who have the financial wherewithal to pay premium prices for pay-per-view international cricket on broadband internet or satellite TV and would be happy to subscribe if appropriately marketed to.

And finally, there is US ProCricket, a modified Twenty20 semi-professional league that launched providing opportunities for first-class overseas players to play alongside US cricketers. Whether US ProCricket will continue to flourish given the opposition of many Test-playing countries to having their players participate is an open question for 2005. But its point has been made--first-class cricketers from all over the world can now play in the USA, if they are willing and able to do so.

The letter from Mani and Speed does not directly address these matters. But it is clear that they are concerned with a systemic failure on the part of USACA to address the fundamental problems of US cricket. To say, as they have done, that they " question whether the current administration of USACA can play any constructive role in taking the game forward in the United States" is about the harshest indictment of any ICC-member country's management that has ever been seen in writing. Now it needs to be seen whether USACA will emerge from its self-imposed silence, and find a way to reply (by word and deed) to ICC's clear ultimatum.