ICC blasts USACA's selection policies, player treatment
The ICC's Anti-Corruption and Security Unit has recently received a formal complaint related to national team selection procedures of the USA Cricket Association, according to information contained in a 40-page report delivered at the ICC annual conference last week in Barbados. The complaint references a threat of legal action "by the parent of an aggrieved child" against the USA U-19 selection process, with the complaint to the ICC ACSU alleging that the selection process was "corrupt" and should be investigated.
Though the ICC report did not name any individual, the complaint is believed to reference Shyam Patnam who, as ESPNcricinfo reported last week, was pursuing arbitration with USACA over the USA U-19 selection process held in May. Patnam separately alleged in a letter to USACA that three players were unfairly selected after not attending the trial while four other players benefitted from nepotism, due to relations with current or former USACA administrators. He added that the seven players should be replaced in the USA U-19 squad by his son, Aravind, and six others. Patnam's initial request for an appeals hearing with USACA was ignored, prompting him to hire California sports attorney Jeremy Evans in a bid to escalate the matter.
In addition to the mention of the USA U-19 selection process, the ICC report also outlined numerous instances of substandard selection processes for USA's other national teams, as well as accusations of politically motivated support staff appointments. The report, which was prepared by a review group led by ICC chief executive, David Richardson, and head of global development, Tim Anderson, states that many USA players and stakeholders referred to the board's method of staff appointments "as a joke" and felt that such decisions "were damaging to the team's ability to perform at the highest level" due to the incompetence of support staff.
USA technical director Robin Singh's reputation as an Indian Premier League and Caribbean Premier League title-winning coach was highlighted as one of the few things that served to be beneficial to players. It came with a caveat though, that his coaching pedigree and acumen are helpful only when he is available. The report cited Singh's prolonged absences, due to his franchise T20 commitments, as "an impediment to the development of the best players and teams in the US."
"It is strongly felt that for USA cricket to meet its potential, the recruitment of full-time, competent coaching resources based in the USA is a fundamental requirement," the report stated.
Worryingly, the report also cited instances in which the welfare of USA's players is undermined by USACA's inability to provide them proper insurance coverage prior to and during their participation at ICC tournaments held in the USA and overseas. It is part of a pattern of administrative behavior in which players interviewed told the ICC that they felt "disrespected and not supported by USACA."
"Such a feeling was exacerbated when, at times, USACA was unable to provide appropriate medical insurance for national team players," the report stated. "This saw players being asked to sign pre-tour/event waivers," which would have absolved USACA of financial liability in the case of injury. On some occasions, the report cited, players were not reimbursed when they sustained injures and required medical attention while playing or training for the USA.
In its defence, USACA claimed that the geographical size of the country, combined with insufficient funds for preparation and lack of vacation days the players are able to obtain from their day jobs make it challenging for the national team to get together for pre-tournament training in order to produce consistently positive performances. The ICC report countered that even though these arguments have merit, the obstacles should not be as debilitating as they are made out to be.
"These challenges are important, however, they are not insurmountable with the involvement of competent, properly motivated people, the development of partnerships and the raising of income. Noting the apparent lack of confidence and distrust within the cricket community about USACA's capacity to implement a merit-based high performance system, it is, however, doubtful that the injection of additional funds only would lead to better on-field performances," the report noted.
As for women's cricket initiatives, the ICC expressed disappointment in the fact that the number of female hard-ball players in the country had only risen from 75 to 135 from 2011 to 2015, despite USA's participation in the 2011 ICC Women's World Cup Qualifier in Bangladesh. The data submitted by USACA, and similar figures reported by other governing bodies in the Americas, resulted in the ICC pulling the plug on funding ICC Americas women's tournaments for World Cup and World T20 berths until better efforts are made by the respective local governing bodies like USACA to develop "more robust" playing pools and domestic structures for women.
"The review group is of the view that, given the right environment and support, the USA has significant potential to develop an internationally competitive women's team in a relatively short period of time. This is largely due to the possibility of talented female athletes in the US that have grown up playing softball, hockey or even lacrosse being able to transition into cricket, and/or females with cricket playing expatriate heritage being given greater opportunities to play competitively."
Peter Della Penna is ESPNcricinfo's USA correspondent. @PeterDellaPenna