By Hamish Barton
NZC National Coach Education Manger
On December 19 Dipak Patel and I left Auckland bound for Miami, Florida to spend 4 days working with the USA National team and the USA U19 team. Both squads were preparing for their respective tournaments; the National team has the ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier in UAE and Pepsi ICC World Cricket League Division 5 in Nepal in February and the U19’s are preparing for the U19 World Cup which is being held in New Zealand.
After a long flight we finally arrived in Miami, the flight from Los Angeles to Miami is 5 and half hours, which felt like eternity! We arrived at the hotel and finally found something to eat and I suppose we both felt excited and anxious about what to expect for the next few days as we had no real idea of what to expect.
We were picked up from the hotel on the first morning by the CEO of the United States of America Cricket Association (USACA), Donald Lockerbie. Donald is great guy and immediately made us feel welcome. We made our way to the ground and on the way Donald gave Dipak and I an insight into USA cricket and also his background.
Lockerbie's career highlights include both full time executive and consulting roles to Olympic Games at Atlanta 1996 and Sydney 2000, as well as FIFA World Cup USA 1994 and the 1998 New York Goodwill Games. He has successfully completed work on over 400 sport facility projects in the last 25-years.
In the sport of Cricket, Donald Lockerbie served from 2003-2007 as the Chief Operating Officer & Venue Development Director of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2007 in the West Indies where he managed the design and development of twelve new Cricket stadia constructed in nine Caribbean countries at the cost of US$431M. He served under CEO Chris Dehring as the number two officer in the Local Organizing Committee and directed World Cup operations at the venues once the stadiums were completed.
Donald has a huge amount of experience and is very positive and excited about cricket in the USA and its understandable when you read some of these facts about cricket in the USA:
- Donald estimates that there are over 15 million cricket fans in the USA
- On any given Saturday there will be approximately 200,000 people playing cricket around the country
- During the last World Cup held in the West Indies according to the ICC’s broadcasting numbers USA had 1.1 billion internet hits on the official ICC website during the 57 days of the World Cup, second only to India and in fact if you combined Canada’s figures, North America surpassed India’s 1.3 billion hits
- During the same World Cup there were 8 million pay per view subscribers in the USA
- In New York City there are 32 Public High Schools playing cricket which has a $1 million budget
- The New York Police Department(NYPD) have organised a cricket league which includes over 600 players (there is a news clip on YouTube about the NYPD Cricket League)
- In Atlanta there are 35 elementary schools playing cricket
- New York City and Indianapolis are in working with USACA on projects to build ODI Stadiums in both cities
So with those facts you get an idea of the potential that USA has in cricket, the numbers are phenomenal and with Donald at the helm I am sure that USACA can become a strong hold in future years.
The National Team and the U19 Team are coached by former West Indian batsman Clayton Lambert and Sew Shivnaraine respectively. The 2 coaches were very excited to have us there and very open to any ideas we had regarding the training sessions over the next few days.
The majority of the players in both squads are a mixture of Caribbean and Asian origin with the exception of one South African born player in the U19 squad, Ryan Corns. Bringing a group of players like this together from cricket rich nations is amazing and as you can imagine the players have incredible natural talent as Dipak soon found out when he watched players from both squads having throw downs.
“I was absolutely amazed by the talent these players had, it was something I hadn’t seen for along time, these players haven’t had a lot of coaching and you could see that it was just all natural, they have great hands and natural striking ability when batting and the spinners ability to bowl all the delivery’s with out thinking about it was really exciting to watch”.
The National Squad was in camp for 2 days and the U19 squad was in camp for 4 days. The first day Dipak and I moved around both squads looking at the players and trying to get a feel for where the players were and what elements of their game they needed to work on. In the end we narrowed it down to 2 areas, fielding and basic game sense principles.
The national squad was a little bit harder to work with than the U19’s as there were so many players in the squad, there were 28 in total. I started them off on the first morning with some fielding drills which tested them out a bit and then they played three T20 matches over the 2 days which went really well and during the games we moved around the ground talking with the players on fielding aspects regarding field settings, angles, backing up, and other basic principles to do with batting and bowling.
Probably the best 2 days of the training camp was spent with the U19’s on the third and forth days. Dipak and I worked solely with the squad of 16 players and it was great fun, we focused on fielding and open wickets as we felt we could get the most out of the trainings and the resources available to us (there were no nets available) by working on these 2 areas.
When we started out the fielding standard was not great and the intensity was poor and the realty was that if this team wanted to compete at the ICC U19 World Cup they had to make major improvements in the fielding department. The players had never really done much fielding practice in the past and if they had they hadn’t trained specifically enough or with any sort of intensity or purpose so at the beginning the players struggled with the transition. But once they got into the drills and felt they were improving and understood that fielding is a vital component to their team being competitive, they really started enjoying their fielding and making major improvements.
The other area we worked hard on was basic game sense principles while doing the open wickets. The batsmen batted in pairs and were given specific targets that they had to meet in a certain number of overs. During the activity we looked at many different aspects to do with the different skill sets of batting, bowling and fielding.
Overall it was an incredible experience in Miami working with the USA players. The amount of talent that was on show was really exciting and it was refreshing to see players who haven’t been exposed to a lot of coaching just play on instinct and natural flair. The scary thing is the potential to grow cricket in the USA is mind boggling and when you mix together the talent pool the USA has to choose from your looking at a pretty exciting prospect.
Both Dipak and I on behalf of New Zealand Cricket would like to thank Donald and everyone else from USACA who looked after us on our trip, it was a great experience and we wish the USA all the best for the upcoming tournaments.