After waiting more than a week beyond its original deadline of August 1, the International Cricket Council (ICC) delivered the coup de grace to USA by expelling them from this season's Intercontinental Cup. Their place will be taken by the Cayman Islands.
Canada, Bermuda and the Cayman Islanders will now contest the Americas division of the Intercontinental Cup in late August. The Cayman Islanders have played some hard fought matches with both USA and the other Cup contenders in recent years, and are expected to put up spirited performances against the other two participants in late August.
Malcolm Speed, the ICC's chief executive, wrote to the two factions battling for control of US cricket advising them of the decision. "The ICC has been extremely patient in seeking to enable the two parties to agree on a team," he said. "It is very disappointing for all concerned that you have not been able to agree on the final composition of the team. We are not able to wait any longer as it is necessary to finalise details of the competing teams. Accordingly, please be advised that the invitation to USA to take part in the ICC Intercontinental Cup for 2005 is withdrawn with immediate effect.
"By way of comment, neither party should see this outcome as a victory," Speed concluded. "Regrettably, the game of cricket in the USA and the cricketers who seek to play cricket for USA at the highest level are again the losers."
For the USA, this is a final chapter in its long saga of acrimony and infighting, and may mean that no USA teams will be playing any international cricket for at least the next two years. There are no other ICC-sponsored tournaments scheduled for the Americas in 2005; and even if there were, it is unlikely that ICC would reverse the stand it has finally taken about joint governance and team selection processes as a pre-requisite for admitting USA back into the fold.
It is an inglorious end to forty years of history, which began when USA became one of the first three countries to achieve the newly founded ICC Associate Member status. It has been a chequered four decades, marked at its zenith by USA's breathtaking win at the Sharjah Six Nations challenge and its nadir by its abject performance in the recent ICC Trophy. All that is over now, and what is left are the memories.
Reactions to USA's banishment into world cricket's wilderness were mixed, with a few bizarre items thrown in. The USACA web site, which has maintained its ostrich-like posture over events of importance like Project USA, was not expected to say much; however, it suddenly announced the venues and dates for the 2005 National tournament, which came as a total surprise to the USA Council of League Presidents (CLP) who would be expected to participate.
The CLP, for its part, was quietly celebrating ICC's decision on the Intercontinental Cup team. It was something they had wished to avoid, but (in their view), USA president Gladstone Dainty's intransigence and refusal to negotiate in good faith left them (and ultimately the ICC) with no other choice.
Perhaps the most distressed were the US cricketers, who had shown signs of being transformed into a younger, more spirited team in the wake of the ICC Trophy debacle, but will now have no place to display their talents in the foreseeable future. As the ICC pointedly remarked in its letter to the USACA and other parties, these were the real losers - and their loss meant that this was hardly to be considered a victory by any one involved in the situation.