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USA coach Lambert still hopeful of path to World Cup

Peter Della Penna

October 16, 2010

Comments: 13 | Text size: A | A

The victorious USA team, Italy v USA, ICC WCL Div. 4 final, Pianoro, August 21, 2010
USA won the World Cricket League Division Four championship in August © International Cricket Council
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USA's journey to make it into the top flight of world cricket has become more difficult with the news that the 2015 World Cup will be a 10-team event. However, USA coach and former West Indies Test player, Clayton Lambert, remains confident that his players will continue making progress towards a potential spot in the event.

"For us, it's certainly a blow, because as an Associate nation, that's the highest form of the game that you can hope to play. That is a blow, but for us, there is still the challenge of trying to be in the top of the Associates and then hopefully we can become a Full [Member]. It is a disappointment for the guys. The guys are really looking forward to going to the World Cup.

"We were hearing that it would probably be only two teams and we still think we're good enough to be one of the two."

Lambert was part of the USA team that played in the Champions Trophy in 2004, but playing against the top flight again became a faraway dream after the USA Cricket Association (USACA) was suspended by the ICC for internal problems. When USA was readmitted in 2008, they were dropped down to World Cricket League (WCL) Division 5.

This year they have been making steady progress up the Associate rankings, and are currently in WCL Division 3, which will be played in Hong Kong in January with the possibility to advance into Division 2 in the UAE next April.

"I know it's a better balanced team than the team that we had when we played in the Champions Trophy," Lambert said. "The guys are a little more organized in what they do. To me, this is the best US team that there's been. There's areas that this particular team can improve, but the team is a lot younger and there's much better balance."

Rather than cut away opportunities, Lambert hoped that more chances would be provided to the Associates against Full Member competition as that is the best way for them to improve.

"If you look at an example like Ireland, I can remember when I was playing with the West Indies… if you were in the West Indian team and you go and play Ireland 10 years ago, you just go and beat the daylights out of them. Now that the guys have had a chance to play county cricket in England, they're developing and they've been beating the Full Members."

"I do believe that in the same way that Full nations can bring young players to become the quality players that they do become, the Associate nations can produce the same quality players. The only thing is being able to play against the high level of competition consistently and that develops the skills. If you don't develop your skills then you can't play against a high level of competition."

A lack of professionalization is the component that Lambert feels is preventing USA from being more competitive on a consistent basis.

"Most of the times, if we have two back to back tournaments, it's difficult for us to have our best team at both tournaments. That's because our players are amateurs and everyone has to work," Lambert said. But when the players have been available and gotten chances to test themselves against an increased level of competition, he says that the improvement has been noticeable.

"When we went to West Indies in '08, we came back in the Americas Cup and we absolutely destroyed all the teams in Florida. Soon after we played Jamaica in Florida, we went to Bermuda and we did really well in that tournament. Coming back from Dubai against a high level of competition, albeit T20, we went to Nepal and on very difficult wickets we were able to achieve the goal we set out to achieve. We've produced better performances once we are exposed [to better competition]."

Peter Della Penna is a journalist based in New Jersey

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Posted by tfjones1978 on (October 23, 2010, 2:59 GMT)

I agree with what Rezaul said. I would actually go a step further and say that ICC should bring in a requirement for domestic cricket that all domestic matches must involve at least 1 player per team who is eligible to play associate cricket. With around 50 first class teams amongst the full members, then 50 associate players will be contracted and play regular domestic cricket. This will most likely mean that the top 10 associate countries will have half their team playing regular cricket against full nation players when not playing international cricket.

Posted by   on (October 18, 2010, 23:42 GMT)

@ UnitedStates YouthCricket- Please do bring cricket in Az!!!! I've been wanting to play cricket in Arizona, but there are clubs for older people. We need more cricket clubs for youth in Az. Please bring cricket into the schools to!!. This is a request of mine, and i would be glad if you guys can do this.

Posted by 2929paul on (October 18, 2010, 9:22 GMT)

USYCA is on the money. Build from the bottom up. In the UK we are trying to rebuild cricket in state schools with various initiatives, notably Chance to Shine. In so many of our schools, cricket is no longer played and so coaches are being put into schools to teach kids at ages 6-11 what it's all about. Once they've got the flavour, they go down to the clubs and we've seen a huge growth in numbers participating over the last five years.

Posted by AussieMatt1974 on (October 18, 2010, 7:47 GMT)

In 1907 the then ICC excluded all non British Empire nations from their idea of world cricket. The USA used to tour England all the time, playing against the finest first class teams and players and doing very well too. Australia would visit the USA on their way home from England and did so until 1913. Cricket was growing in the USA at the time. Many fans are hoping for the expansion of the game but the ICC still doesn't do enough to promote and make people in most parts of the world learn when they have the opportunity to do so. You have to wonder how cricket would have benefited from the USA's involvement had they not been excluded all those years ago. Grass roots sports is a must for any nation to succeed. You have to get the kids playing the game and organise from the ground up. It takes a while but it works if done properly. Lets hope in time this will happen in the USA and Canada. After all, the first international cricket match was played between these two nations in 1844.

Posted by   on (October 17, 2010, 23:26 GMT)

Americans will support cricket if it is developed properly. Here's what I mean:

In recent weeks, USYCA has introduced cricket to thousands of American school children and they have immediately fallen in love with the game. It is now being played in elementary and middle schools across the country; on Friday I spoke at the convention of Maryland Physical Education teachers in Baltimore about USYCA's Schools Program. Check out http://usyca.org and you'll learn a lot about what's going on.

Cricket has a bright future in the USA, but in order for it to be successful, it must be grown from the ground up, starting with children. To do otherwise, in an impatient attempt to shortcut the process, will only result in frustration and failure, as it has in the past. So, really, USYCA is where the future of American cricket is happening, not USACA.

That's why if you're looking for evidence of cricket's potential here, don't look at adults; that's not where it's at. Look to their children.

Posted by Umamahesh_Srigiriraju on (October 17, 2010, 17:03 GMT)

I don't see USA having any sort of noticeable presence on International stage for at least another 4 decades. Cricket has just gotten better and better in that part of the world that is eastwards of the Atlantic. USA can try, though. No harm. To dream of playing reasonable cricket at International level a sound cricket body is a must. It is not the other way around. They need to have cricketers who choose cricket as their profession. And USA is mostly a middle-class country where every member of the family has to work. So, if cricket doesn't present itself as a viable profession to the people of USA, then their reasonable presence on International stage is never going to happen. At the end of the day everything is about money anywhere in the world. How can anybody expect any sort of reasonable presence when amateur cricket is the only way they've got? USA needs to have the right process in place and results would follow.

Posted by   on (October 17, 2010, 5:37 GMT)

@Alex Spurge: easier said than done. There's no promotion of cricket in the media or at the school level. Born-and-bred American cricketers aren't just a rarity, they're an an anomaly.

Posted by Rezaul on (October 16, 2010, 23:23 GMT)

Let me give an example, in 1997 ICC trophy, USA team almost defeated Bangladesh until Akram Khan played the innings of his life and took his team to the victory. Then they became champion on that tournament and qualified for world cup. In that world cup they beat Pakistan and look at them now, they are a strong team now. They just beat NZL (who was 2nd in ICC ranking couple of months ago) 3-0. At 1997 the difference between Bangladesh and USA was not that large. Since then Bangladesh has progressed a lot and USA went down further. So, my honest opinion is that if USA cricket bodies adopt some inspirational technique and structure in the domestic cricket plus make their players play in the neighboring WI then they can progress rapidly. Good Luck to USA.

Posted by   on (October 16, 2010, 20:31 GMT)

Maybe the West Indies Rejects XI should look to make a team of born and bred AMERICANS??? Afterall, the current national team is made up of failed first-class cricketers. Maybe a leaf out of Afghanistan or Ireland's books might be in hand: Have a majority of players being from that country.

Posted by   on (October 16, 2010, 19:34 GMT)

I feel for the Associates, but I have to wonder how much good it does for them to be thrown to the wolves time and time again. They might get a scratch in every now and then, but more often than not, you'll just see the wolves get fatter. Even after beating the West Indies in 2007, Ireland have been struggling to make another significant impact. And it took Bangladesh 10 years to make their mark.

That's why I think throwing the doors of the Twenty20 World Cup open to more Associates is a better idea. That's the development ground, that's the training facility. If Associates can bat out 20 overs on a regular basis, then they can start thinking about batting out 50 overs. Throwing them into the deep end, they'll lose more games than they'll learn lessons. Especially for the USA, which is plagued by poor administration and a complete lack of support from the general public.

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