Life continues despite suspension
Only two weeks since the USA Cricket Association (USACA) was stripped of its membership in the community of cricketing nations, some familiar patterns are beginning to emerge in US cricket. And depending on how one reads the tea leaves, they may bode well for its future.
True to form, of course, the USACA website carried no mention of its suspension, let alone an explanation of its actions that had led to this unfortunate event. The site did carry a brief note saying that "More than 70% of the member clubs voted in favor of ratifying the proposed USACA constitution. 29.97% were against," ignoring the fact that this so-called ratification was under court challenge and had also failed to meet the standards set by ICC for a valid tally.
If the USACA was playing its usual game of inscrutable secrecy, the media were under no such constraint. Stories of USA's suspension appeared in newspapers and on websites all over the world, even in far-off places like India, Pakistan, Africa and Singapore. The idea that the USA could be suspended for anything by a world body must have tickled people's fancies - it was as if the United Nations had disqualified the USA for failing to live up to its international obligations.
Some folks even wondered if the whole thing was a marketing ploy by the ICC, USACA or some other interested parties-- after all, it did draw attention to US cricket, more than anything else had done in the past 20 years. Unfortunately, the situation is real enough, as are its intended and unintended consequences.
One of those consequences has been the ascendancy of the rejuvenated Council of USA Cricket League Presidents, or USACA-CLP (called CLP for short) as the unchallenged leader in the active arena of US cricket politics. The original members of the CLP's policy-making group, the Interim Committee as it was called, had been browbeaten into silence by a salvo of lawsuits filed by Gladstone Dainty's lawyers against both the CLP as a whole and separately against all its individual members. Their place was taken by newly elected representatives of US cricket leagues who had had enough of the USACA Executive and its antics.
They have raised the banner of cooperative democracy under which USACA had originally been founded, and rejected the actions of the current USACA executive as anti-democratic, unconstitutional and irrelevant to the issues confronting US cricket. And now that ICC has implicitly supported the CLP position in its official letter to Dainty, they have every hope that the long nightmare of the past three years of egregious mismanagement of US cricket may at last be coming to an end.
Meanwhile, US cricket is not waiting on the USACA to resolve its internal problems. Plans for long-run development are being implemented, on a decidedly ambitious timetable.
The LA Open, which has established itself as a leading 20/20 tournament where international teams descend on Woodley Park to mix it up with aspiring regional talent in a frenetic display of skill, is on for September 5 to 8. Meanwhile, a quadrangular affair between the four cricket leagues in the rapidly growing Pacific Northwest region is being planned for a weekend in late March. A team representing the Midwest Cricket Conference in Chicago is on an invitational tour if Hyderabad, and may be the first overseas team to play in the new state-of-the art stadium built to accommodate first-class international cricket in South India.
Meanwhile, the Houston Astrodome, with the full support of municipal authorities, is going through a multi-billion dollar reconstruction featuring cricket as its showcase sport. And Broward County, having helped to stage the successful Interstate championship organized last year by Major League Cricket (MLC), is trying to get the ECB and the WICB to use their newly developed facilities as cricket's equivalent of baseball's Cactus League in Arizona, beginning in 2007 and continuing thereafter.
All of which goes to show that the problem with US cricket has never been with those who have actively participated in the sport. As the ICC itself has stated, "It is especially disappointing that the USA players have had to be penalized in this way ...The ICC hopes ... that all those with the good of the game at heart will come together and take control of this unfortunate situation." This is precisely what the CLP is proposing to do, and one can only wish them success in this difficult endeavour.
Deb K Das is Cricinfo's correspondent in the USA