Here we go again! Team USA did not improve on its rankings at the recent U19 World Cup [it did not slip either], yet that has not stopped the murmurings about the slow progress of United States cricket both on and off the field. But could there be any doubt that USA Cricket has made, and continues to make, enormous strides in the past 10 months? While the impatience might be understandable, to conveniently forget the past, (particularly the very recent past) is not. One needs to judge USA Cricket not alone by the progress (and there has been progress) it has achieved in the past 10 months, but more significantly, by the hopeless depths of deep despair from which it has recently emerged. For that, let’s go to the video tape [or in this case the printed word].
First, let’s take a look off the field. Prior to 2009, USA Cricket became increasingly irrelevant, twice suspended by the ICC in 2005 and again in 2007 with ICC’s, Malcolm Speed, putting it this way: "We have seen numerous sporting organisations in various states of disarray throughout our period of involvement as sports administrators. We have never seen a sporting organisation that combines such great potential and such poor administration as USACA. From our observations much of the blame for this lies with the current office bearers of USACA, including yourself. We question whether the current administration of USACA can play any constructive role in taking the game forward in the United States.”
The year 2005 also saw the famous meeting of the Council of League Presidents (CLP) in Dallas, Texas, and the allegations of massive electoral fraud. Indeed, the noughties have been arguably the most chaotic and acrimonious in the history of United States cricket. [Such a notorious distinction is no ordinary “accomplishment” given the checkered history of United States cricket!]. In fact, the nineties decade rivals the noughties for notoriety. There was, for example, the Time Out debacle when US cricket administrators, during negotiations with the ICC to launch the Disney Project, conveniently forgot to tell the ICC of their commercial contract with the American company Time Out. In the summer of 1997, following ICC’s announcement of the Disney Project, the World Governing Body, wrote Christopher Martin-Jenkins, faced the threat of possible legal action from Time Out who naturally felt betrayed by the United States administrators. In an effort to salvage the Project, ICC Chief executive, Dave Richards, flew to New York for discussions with USACA representatives, president Akhtar "Chic" Masood, Ricky Craig and Gladstone Dainty, together with representatives of Time Out, but to no avail. The World Governing Body was left with no other alternative but to abandon the highly-promising Disney Project that would have provided the much needed funding for cricket development.
The nineties also witnessed the struggle between two bodies, the United States Cricket Association (USACA) and the United States Cricket Federation (USCF), vying for control of United States cricket. The struggle degenerated into a crass and ungainly spectacle when members of USACA led by then president, Ricky Craig, and a group of supporters, allegedly broke up a meeting of the USCF in Manhattan. The USCF’s case also documented the abject failures of USACA. In particular, the report raised concerns about the association’s finance. At ICC’s request, an independent audit of USACA's books found that for the years 1987 to 1995: “the quality of the reports examined does not seem to exhibit the necessary record-keeping of an organization which is part of a worldwide entity”.
Dare we compare such a humiliating legacy of acrimony, claims and counterclaims of corruption, chaos, and abject failure with the corporate and professional approach of USA Cricket since the appointment of CEO, Don Lockerbie? Could there be any doubt that the inclusion of the USA in the ICC T/20 Playoffs in Dubai in February is in large part due to the newly-acquired image and respect for USA Cricket on the international circuit where for years USACA was viewed as comic relief? In my travels across the United States in 2009 - from the East Coast to Middle America to the West Coast - there is a growing conviction that USA Cricket is finally on the threshold of realizing the long-expected hope of being a respected player on the world stage and not a candidate for a handout. Does this mean that all is now well with USACA? Of course not - for one, funding, or a lack thereof, continues to be the biggest obstacle to real and lasting progress. Secondly, there is an immediate need to liberate the game from the clutches of self-serving administrators still fiercely engaging in turf wars – witness the recent upheavals in the New York Region. Notwithstanding, there can be no doubt that USA Cricket is, unmistakably, on the move.
* Content provided by Dr Sham Samaroo