'USA should revoke membership of ICC'
Frustrated with the lack of progress in the development of cricket in the United States of America, the head of the nation's youth cricket association has called on the country to relinquish its membership of the ICC.
Despite having been an been an associate member of the ICC since 1965, cricket remains a minority sport in the USA, with fewer than 10 grass pitches and only three of the current national side born in the country.
USA's membership has twice been suspended from the ICC and plans for a high-profile T20 league have never progressed beyond discussions. USA are currently in Division Three of the World Cricket League and USA Cricket Association, the official board, are believed to be US$2 million in debt and mired in controversy after highly criticised internal elections.
Now Jamie Harrison, president of the volunteer organisation USA Youth Cricket Association has called for change. While Harrison is loathe to turn his back on the funding provided by the ICC - currently around $300,000 per year - he is among those to have lost faith in the USA Cricket Association, the official board, who have, he says, "proven itself incapable of establishing cricket as an American sport".
According to Harrison, if the ICC is unwilling or unable to see that USACA are part of the problem rather than part of the solution, the country would be better off without their involvement.
"After nearly fifty years of Associate membership of the ICC, cricket in the United States still languishes as a niche sport for expatriates," Harrison told ESPNcricinfo. "The national governing body has proven itself incapable of establishing cricket as an American sport and the world governing body sees America's value solely in terms of the commercial prospects of its expatriate fan base.
"Ample evidence exists to support the conviction that the United States has evolved into little more than a dysfunctional cricket colony, forever doomed to the backwaters of the international game, unless a new path is chosen.
"It is clear to me that the time for this new path has come, and that for the immediate future, that path must shun ICC entanglements. Only by shedding its international rewards and responsibilities can America free itself from those in its current cricket administration, find true visionaries for its leadership, and turn its ample resources toward building a domestic game.
"Rather than prop up a dysfunctional, unpopular body saddled with crushing debt that cannot act in the best interests of American cricket, the ICC should do the right thing and let us begin again, and if the ICC won't get on the right side of the debate, then the USA should just do it without them.
"The time has come for change. No longer is the status quo, where out-of-touch administrators smugly dictate to American volunteers, an acceptable state of affairs. We believe that a fresh start, a start controlled from the grassroots by those doing the hard work of building the game, is required."
One of the fundamental problems, in Harrison's view, is the link between ICC funding and the success of the national side. It has, he claims, led to short-termism both in regards team selection and development funding with administrators chasing immediate gains and the expat market, to the exclusion of youth development and engagement.
He hopes that, in time, the ICC will embrace the American Cricket Federation as a viable alternative to USACA.
"The ACF is a relatively new national organisation that has attracted some of the best cricket administrators in the country to its ranks," Harrison explained. "Its constitution and governance structure is superior to USACA and they go to great lengths to give representation to all cricket stakeholders. More to the point, its leadership is motivated by altruism, not ego-inflating ICC baubles."
The USYCA was formed by Harrison in 2010 with the intention of making a more vigorous effort to grow the game in the US, and claims to have reached around 250,000 school students, though that figure is disputed by the ICC. The association has distributed more than 1,500 cricket sets to schools across the country. But Harrison said he had found his efforts to push the game at the grassroots level had not corresponded to the way he feels the ICC sees the US - primarily as an extra marketplace for the current Full Member countries.
Tim Anderson, global development manager at the ICC, accepted the development of US cricket had been "challenging" but insisted that USACA was now putting in place the changes required to progress.
"It's important to acknowledge the history of cricket in the USA," Anderson told ESPNcricinfo. "The majority of cricket played in the USA is by people of Caribbean or south Asian backgrounds, and limited progress has so far been made in taking the game to the wider population. USACA has also faced governance and administration challenges in the past that saw it twice suspended by the ICC for failing to meet membership criteria.
"But that approach wasn't effective and therefore a closer working relationship has now been established. To the USACA Board's credit, it has recognised that change is needed for the game to move forward more purposefully, and over the past year this has led to the appointment of a new CEO, the implementation of an independent governance review and the development of a new strategy and staffing structure that has a focus on both improving performance and growing participation.
"We admire the work of USYCA and other youth development organisations across the USA that are promoting cricket to the youth of America. Their work supports USACA's national development mandate and will hopefully assist in the long term realisation of cricket's vast potential in the USA."
Darren Beazley, who became chief executive of USACA in February, admitted the long-term history of his organisation was "chequered", but felt the short-term results promised far more.
"I can't deny there have been problems in the past," he told ESPNcricinfo. "But we're heading in the right direction now. We've made real progress in the last six months and I hope, in time, we can persuade Jamie Harrison to work with us."
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo