Heading down a familiar road
Without any advance publicity or fanfare, on January 15 the USA Cricket Association revealed its Strategic Development plan for 2006-2007. It makes for some interesting reading.
The 2006-2007 Plan's Mission Statement states that the USACA is to "develop and promote the game of cricket, to select and prepare our teams to compete successfully in international competitions, and to provide the necessary supporting infrastructure" for this purpose.
This mission statement puts USACA on a different track to Major League Cricket (MLC), with which its plan will inevitably be compared. MLC's focus is on the development of a self-sufficient US domestic cricket as its major priority, with the development of state-level infrastructures, a US based Twenty20 League, and a long-range program for "mainstreaming" US cricket as its primary goals. Its international objectives do mention training MLC national squads to competitive standards in world cricket, but this is secondary to achieving what MLC considers to be its main goal of establishing US cricket as a distinctively "American" sport. MLC's vision of its "necessary supporting infrastructure" is geared to domestic objectives, with international recognition coming only as a result of its domestic achievements.
The USACA plan sets out 12 objectives to accomplish its stated mission.
The first three represent the meat of the strategy; setting out what USACA proposes to do with actual playing of cricket. There is to be a Junior and Youth Development Program in several tiers, U-13, U-15, U-17 and U-19; a senior program involving a national and a U-23 A squad, rather like MLC's program goals; and a series of national competitions for leagues, clubs and regions (but not states, which is MLC's unit of account). In terms of support services, action is promised on national coaches' and umpires' associations; and improving facilities and infrastructure. "Improving information and communications" and "restoring USACA's image", are inserted as statements of intent, and a wistful note is added by the objective that USACA will host ICC tournaments in 2006-2007 as well as participate in them.
This strategic development plan can be best understood if it is placed alongside its predecessor, the USACA's five-year plan the period 2000-2006 which was developed by USACA at the insistence of Clyde Walcott but which has been gathering dust on the shelf since it was first published. The differences between them are dramatic, and offer a clue to USACA's thinking on the issues.
The 2000 mission statement sounds like its 2006-2007 counterpart: "To promote the game of cricket at all levels in the United States of America, develop national teams that will be competitive and successful in international competitions and to become the symbol of excellence in sports throughout the world." But the 2000 objectives were specific, and measurable - they represented targets to be achieved, as well as when they would be attained.
The 2000 plan boldly stated that the USA would "attain ODI status by 2006 and thereby qualify automatically for [the] 2007 World Cup." Along the way, the USA would win the " ICC World Cup series competition 2004, the ICC Trophy 2005, Americas Regional Championships (2002,2004,2006), Win or finish in second position in Americas Regional U-15, U-19 championship in 2002 and 2003, and make a strong showing in other international tournaments where a USA team would participate".
There were also specific targets; "Increase participation of players from its current 10,000 to 40,000 in a five-year period, Certify 2000 umpires, 2000 coaches, [and] at least 150 advanced certified coaches", and thoroughly review its "organizational and administrative structures and its constitution by 2003". USACA was planning to host the "Americas U15 (2002), Americas U-19 (2005) Americas Championship (2006), and two visits from Full Member A teams (2003 & 2004)". The USACA would also "embark on an aggressive promotion and advertising campaign to increase the profile of the game by staging festival Cricket games, hold ODI games between Full members at various locations, [and] Increase the general media coverage of cricket".
As of 2006, it is very clear that USACA was unable to achieve most of its 2000 objectives. It not only failed to achieve ODI status, but it saw other Associate Members achieve this and was the one left out in the cold. It won none of the tournaments it had targeted in 2000 except the Americas U-19, where the youngsters performed brilliantly and exceeded its own expectations.
The USACA's numerical targets were unmet by substantial margins, the cancellation of Project USA obviated its plans for "holding ODI games between Full Members at various locations", and there was no "aggressive promotion and advertising campaign" or "festival cricket games" to "increase the profile of the game". Most importantly, the "[review of its] organizational and administrative structures and its constitution by 2003" had not even begun as of 2006.
If the USACA was so singularly ineffective in achieving its five-year goals set out in 2000, is there any assurance that it will be able to do so in 2006? There are many who would question USACA's abilities to do so, let alone raise the massive resources required to meet its ambitious new goals. If the USACA had not demonstrated its failure to meet its own stated objectives since 2000, there are many who might choose to give USACA the benefit of the doubt for the time being. But a five-year track record of failure is not easy to overlook, and there will be skeptics and cynics who will be comparing the past with the present and asking some very hard questions.
If the USACA is able to make real progress on its 2006 objectives after all, the stage could be set for an interesting confrontation between two different world views about US cricket-- MLC's vision of an all-American cricket future, and USACA's of a world cricket order where meeting and exceeding international standards would be the raison d'etre driving US cricket development. But a great deal has to happen before such a confrontation could even take place. Both MLC and USACA have more urgent short-term goals to meet, and these deserve attention in the years ahead.
Deb K Das is Cricinfo's correspondent in the USA