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New USACA chief sets sights on development

Peter Della Penna

March 4, 2013

Comments: 37 | Text size: A | A

Darren Beazley, the new chief executive officer of the USA Cricket Association, is hoping to turn around America's cricket fortunes by making grassroots development a high priority during his tenure. Beazley, who began in the role last month after moving from Perth, Australia, stated in an interview with ESPNcricinfo that cricket should be a sport "for all Americans."

"I'm keen to try and work really closely with a lot of the grassroots stakeholders. They've obviously been doing it around their clubs very well but it's now about helping them evolve, take the next step," Beazley said. "I want to work with people and particularly the USACA board to develop a strategic approach and plan for the sport over the next three years and part of that is going to be how we communicate broader than what we're apparently doing at the moment."

For Beazley, the job is an opportunity to show that he can grow the playing base among the local population in the United States that has been historically reliant on expats. Beazley previously lived in the USA in 2002 in Fairfax, Virginia where he met his American wife. Like most people, he says he didn't notice any cricket being played in the Washington, D.C. area a decade ago. Now based out of Florida, he says he's determined to raise the sport's profile nationwide.

"The reality is that cricket in the US right at the moment is very niche so therefore it makes sense that most people are not going to be aware of it," he said. "This is probably one of the most professional sports markets in the world and the big sports are obviously going to dominate mainstream media. There's no reason why with a coordinated and strategic approach that we can't start to get our messages out there.

"As we start to do things over the next few years, it's about using our money wisely and being strategic in how we get those messages out there, whether it's promoting a tournament or whether it's promoting to the community. 'Hey listen kids if you want to play cricket, here's how you can do it.' Schools are the first step but we have to see about making transition from schools to the local club."

Beazley says he has proven through his development work in South Africa for the Australian Football League's Fremantle Dockers as well as during his time as the CEO of the Perth 2011 ISAF World Sailing Championships that he can take an unknown sport in a local area and help build interest to gain exposure, something he feels makes him well suited for his role at the USACA.

"I really enjoy working in international business and international sport," Beazley said. "When I was at Dockers, the work I did in three years in South Africa developing a game was exactly the same scenario here, everyone telling us, 'You'll never get it off the ground. There's no one in South Africa playing Australian Rules Football.' All the rubbish that people do to try and cut you down and hold you back.

"We took it from 2,500 participants to 12,000 participants in our region alone, made some good money out of there and really developed the brand of football and in particular, the Dockers. I think this is a similar challenge where there'll be a lot of Doubting Thomas's and a lot of people telling, 'USACA, you can't do it,' and giving us a million reasons why not. I'm not saying that everything I've got in my mind will come to fruition but I can tell you now we're certainly going to give it our best shot."

One of Beazley's other aims is to establish a healthy relationship between the USACA and the general public in order to improve the organisation's reputation that has remained poor following last year's controversial elections. In his first month on the job, Beazley has attended local league matches in south Florida, met with various local, regional and national stakeholders, published multiple press releases and made himself readily accessible to speak with bloggers and journalists. Beazley plans to launch a new website soon and wants an effective social media presence for the organisation.

It would be a major turnaround from the problems experienced in October when former executive secretary Kenwyn Williams posted a string of messages on Facebook and Twitter that brought negative attention to the USACA and eventually caused him to be removed by the USACA board. Beazley says he doesn't want people to focus on the problems of the past. Rather, he hopes that those with an interest in cricket in the USA will look at his tenure as a clean slate for the organisation.

"I might be Australian so I might be from out of town, but I do have an American family who lives in Alabama and Tennessee so it's not like America is new and something strange to me," Beazley said. "The fact that I'm prepared to pick up my family and move from one side of the world to the other and make a commitment to help people develop the game here over the next three years and hopefully beyond that, I would hope that people would say this is a new start and this is an opportunity for us to develop the game of cricket."

Beazley acknowledges that there is no quick fix for many of the problems US cricket faces, such as lack of financial resources and infrastructure. However, he hopes people involved in cricket around the country are willing to work with him to get things going in the right direction.

"We're not all necessarily always going to agree. I'm not going to ride in on a white horse and wave a magic wand and all of the issues are going to go away because that's not how sport works anywhere in the world, but I am coming here saying that I'm here to help. I'm here to work with people and if we do that together then my experience has been over a long period of time that success becomes inevitable."

Peter Della Penna is a journalist based in New Jersey

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Posted by   on (March 7, 2013, 20:23 GMT)

Hi im Sumon Bari played u-19 world cup for usa team in Sri Lanka. Im really happy to see our teammate akeem dodson and Abhimanyu Rajp in that t20 squad..but i would love know whos the selector in usa now? because we had best team in world cup on 2006.That 06 u19 team is the best usa team ever we went undefeated in canada....and beat namibia in the world cup. I also like to thank my coach Linden Frazer who always try to help me put in usa team but i dont know whos the selector..... im sorry to say,you guys dont give a chance to Bangladeshis players usa never will qualify for any world cup.

Posted by   on (March 7, 2013, 3:13 GMT)

Im shayan, i played in the under 19 usa team. I think everything thats happening is more a step towards success, usaca needs to get up there, we need to be as good as all the other countries. and this could happen. we have the talent.

Posted by cricketfan2013 on (March 6, 2013, 17:27 GMT)

@bharath - Of course you need to pay in order to play in any form of structured event or league since basics like insurance and maintenance fees need to be paid (although sometimes maintenance leaves a lot to be desired). You can't seriously expect to play anything other than backyard or street cricket without having to pay some for of fee. The onus is as much on individual clubs to be constructive, responsible members of a well structured and financed system, as it is on the governing body to provide said structure and financial support. There seems to be a lot of improving from both sides that needs to be done. That aside, good luck Darren, and anyone else who is trying to develop the game of cricket in this country.

Posted by   on (March 6, 2013, 7:31 GMT)

It will be difficult to make cricket catch on in the United States. Sports like football and baseball, in being distinctly American and having been founded in America, will never be supplanted. Baseball, in particular, due to its similarities to cricket will certainly hamper cricket's progress. Furthermore, even the t20 format is relatively long (~4 hrs) for the American public. Cricket can certainly become more popular but given how it has been promoted so far, its ceiling as an American sport is limited. This is particularly due to it being dominated by expatriates and not enough being done to promote cricket's popularity amongst the general public. There are obviously some promising developments, such as a high school cricket league in New York (which I participated in) but even this league is dominated by kids who have just emigrated here (I was an exception). The cricket atmosphere in America just seems to closeted and exclusive.

Posted by   on (March 6, 2013, 5:06 GMT)

There are many curious people in Columbus Georgia. And we also have Friday night cricket where we get together and play cricket tournaments. Please have some kind of visit to Georgia. The talent here is amazing but there are no opportunities to showcase it. Also we should start by promoting cricket on Tv through espn because all of America watches it. Followed by creations of local teams and local tornaments. Thanks I hope cricket will become popular in America because it is a great sport.

Posted by   on (March 6, 2013, 4:04 GMT)

We all have our dreams, Darren, but what you'll learn is that cricket in the USA is jealously kept secret by expats who hold its domain and have no desire to let us Yanks in on this wonderful sport. The last thing they want is Americans to learn and excel at cricket. Right now, it's all theirs and they intend to keep it that way. We're not invited.

Good luck and God speed, Darren...you'll need plenty of both.

Posted by   on (March 6, 2013, 3:16 GMT)

I still feel that T20 cricket is still not short enough by global standards. Its duration is more than double as compared to soccer. If you aim to make a quick-and-crisp version of cricket, then three-and-half hours are still long. Ideally the length of the shortest version should be between seven to ten overs.

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