Mixed response to MLC initiative
The announcement that Major League Cricket (MLC) had approached ICC for authorization to replace the USA Cricket Association (USACA) as the official body for US cricket has produced mixed reactions among US cricketers - mostly positive, but tinged with a few notes of surprise and doubt.
On the merits at least, there were very few who questioned MLC's stance. USACA's total evasion of its responsibilities towards ICC and US cricket for the past few years has been widely reported. It has shown no inclination to resolve its legal disputes, satisfy ICC's requirements for financial audits, to reform its management structure and accountability procedures, review the legitimacy of the contracts it has made with ProCricket and the California Cricket Academy, or to hold elections as requested by critics of its management.
It has even failed to deliver on unofficial promises it had made - for instance, a promise to make a public statement disavowing any efforts to undermine the programs and reputations of MLC and other independent US organizations has yet to see the light of day, although it was promised months ago in Dallas.
Instead, USACA has focused on publicizing the successes of the USA U-19 team, announcing dates for four proposed national youth tournaments, and proceeding with the first steps of a two-year strategic development plan, which it unveiled, on its website last month. It did finally get around to naming a blue-ribbon panel to examine the USACA constitution and report back by mid-April, but the timing makes it unlikely that any changes can be reviewed or implemented before mid-2006.
Meanwhile, MLC has proceeded cautiously but steadily on its own long-range plan. It maintained a tight-lipped silence to the barrage of negative comments unleashed by USACA and CLP supporters, and refused to comment publicly on charges that its programs were being sabotaged with the tacit support of USACA and CLP. It was able to hold a successful tournament in Florida, identify MLC national squads which performed well against first-class teams from England and the West Indies, and expand its operational structure by appointing SDOs (State Development Officers) in several states with more to follow.
It has also announced an interstate Under-15 tournament in Tennessee over Memorial Day weekend in 2006, and is also planning international tours to England and the Caribbean for its national squads in mid-2006. So far, it has managed to chalk up some substantive accomplishments for US cricket, with more in the pipeline and to follow.
There are some cricketers who question whether this was the best time for MLC to approach the ICC. After all, MLC has been doing well enough on its own; if the ICC was to flat-bat its request, as Martin Williamson has suggested, MLC would have nothing to show for its approach and the USACA could turn the rebuff to its own advantage.
There are others who think that MLC's hand may have been forced by other circumstances. Some of the major sponsors and financiers that MLC has been approaching in recent weeks may have asked for a clear demonstration that ICC would indeed support MLC in its programs and initiatives, and MLC's letter was its way of assuring these people of ICC's affirmative intent.
Whatever the case, it is clear that the tone and tenor of ICC's reply will make a great deal of difference, to MLC as well as US cricket. Will the ICC be able to make clear its approval of MLC's goals and objectives, even while making its pro forma statement that it cannot "interfere in the domestic affairs of a member country"?
Is there some other way that ICC can recognize and perhaps reward those who are trying to make a difference in US cricket, even while maintaining its studied neutrality in such matters? There are many who will be waiting to see exactly what ICC says - and does - wth the challenging request made to it by MLC.
Deb K Das is Cricinfo's correspondent in the USA