Cricket in the United States
CricInfo is reporting that Ken Gordon, president of the West Indies Cricket Board, may have brokered a truce between the factions in USACA's internal battle for control, which resulted in USACA's suspension from their ICC Associate Membership in March. If the truce leads to a resolution of the dispute, USACA could be readmitted, but no details of the truce are available to estimate a timetable. Both sides have apparently committed to a review of USACA's constitution that would seek comment and/or advice from stakeholders.
While it is neither unusual nor unexpected that no details have been provided, it is troubling, as the present USACA Board of Directors, headed by Gladstone Dainty, has a long history of operating in secret, to the detriment of cricket in the USA (and the maintenance of their own Soviet-style control of the organization at any cost). In recent years, even the most minimal progress has only been made reluctantly, and only when the glare of publicity created pressures too strong to be ignored. A reversion to secrecy would not appear to be in the best interests of the sport, unless it can be conclusively shown that such secrecy will promote a viable solution to the problems of USACA's management.
In a small bit of good news for US cricket, CricInfo is reporting that the Marylebone Cricket Club will be setting up an organization in the United States, MCC America, to "help with coaching and coordinating the game's development in the USA."
One can hope that this will work out better than previous attempts at developing or promoting the game outside of USACA; CricInfo does report that USACA is a potential obstacle whose toes will most likely be stepped on in the process. Frankly, given that USACA has shown by their actions that maintaining their power is more important than actually following through on their Mission Statement (which can be found at http://www.usaca.org/Who_we_are.htm), to the point where they will ignore directives from the ICC and be suspended from membership thereby, maybe some organization needs to damn the torpedos and not only step on some toes, but run roughshod over any and all obstructions to getting the job done. Obviously, the ICC is not that organization, though it should be; might MCC be the one instead?
CricInfo India, on May 3 reports that there is a possibility of a triangular series between India, Australia, and West Indies being held on US soil. No details have been reported as yet, but the possibility is intriguing.
A CricInfo April 28 story over Martin Williamson's byline indicates that the ICC has denied rumors of the re-suspension of USACA. The article outlines the conditions under which USACA was readmitted, and it is noted that the deadlines for those conditions have yet to expire. The ICC does reserve the right to review their stance at any time, and claims that they will continue to monitor the USACA situation.
USACA has not commented.
I still believe that there is some serious inconsistency between the ICC's stated principles and their actions in the USACA saga. On the one hand, they regularly refuse to take any significant action on the basis of 'not interfering in internal governance', while on the other hand, they have imposed conditions which are unquestionably intimately tied in with USACA's internal procedures. This inconsistency bothers me; it suggests that there are unstated reasons - possibly political within the ICC or between the ICC and its member national organizations - that the ICC is in essence rejecting any possibility of cooperation with Major League Cricket or any other possible candidates for running cricket in the United States.
This may well be a short-sighted position, especially given the suggestions that USACA can afford to ignore the ICC, because 'the ICC needs USACA more than USACA needs the ICC'. If MLC manages to popularize cricket in the US without USACA's or the ICC's help, it would actually go a long way to supporting that point of view (although it would also show USACA in a poor light for having incompetent management), and that in turn would weaken the ICC. If, subsequently, the ICC refused to deal with a strong cricket organization in the US and sanction international matches, it would tend to reduce them to irrelevancy from the US point of view - the perception would be that the ICC is refusing to play with us, not that they're not letting us play with them, and who needs their attitude anyway? That could lead to other countries - most notably India - considering the possibility of following a proven US lead, and that ultimately could lead to the demise of the ICC.
If, on the other hand, the ICC sanctions international matches against a strong US organization that has been denied access to ICC funds and the ICC decision-making process, it would also show that the ICC needs the US more than the US needs the ICC, and would weaken the ICC in everyone's perceptions, and other countries - again, most notably India - could see a precedent and a success model in the US's actions.
The conclusion, obviously, is that the ICC is making a serious mistake in refusing to deal with MLC.
The California Cricket Cup scores were reported in CricInfo, April 25, and the Southern California Cricket Association took honors,with victories over the North Texas and Northern California Cricket Associations. The Northwest Cricket League was recorded as having lost both of its matches (against Northern California and North Texas), but the match against North Texas may have been misrecorded, as after North Texas made 216 in 50 overs, Northwest was set for 202 in 48.4 and made target in 42.4.
The MLC Texas team, made up mostly of players from Houston, did not appear due to conflicting commitments. The Northwest Cricket League team also participated in last fall's MLC/Clive Lloyd Cup, as the Washington team.
Your intrepid usa_cricket reporter returns to action, after suffering through a severe bout of Life, which involved a change in both work and sleep schedules.
The short summary of what's been happening: In apparent reaction to MLC head Bernard Cameron's request that MLC be recognized to fill the de facto vacant USA seat on the ICC, the ICC reinstated USACA as the recognized representative. Cameron has expressed frustration with this decision, and questioned the rationale of it. The ICC's response was one that split legal hairs, and perhaps shows a failure of understanding of organized sport in the USA - but it also appears that the ICC intends to keep a close watch on USACA, and certain performance requirements will need to be met for USACA to retain its seat. Those requirements include a revamping of the USACA Constitution, and a committee to undertake this has been formed, with expectations that the revamping will be complete by 30 June.
The original decision came as a surprise to those watching the saga (CricInfo, 21 March), as there had been no apparent change in USACA's conduct or organization. The ICC, however, continues to hide behind the 'interference in internal governance' excuse while at the same time making demands on USACA that are inarguably connected with USACA's internal governance. It is hard to square the two positions, and one suspects that the prevailing mood among the spectators is one of resignation, though with a small amount of hope that there will be real change coming.
MLC head Bernard Cameron has been doing what he can to show his organization's credibility when it comes to cricket management, including having staged a tournament whose winners performed credibly against a selected international side. Understandably, he has expressed frustration and demanded an explanation in response to the ICC's reinstatement of USACA (CricInfo, 22 March).Cameron's characterization of USACA, while definitely unkind, is not inaccurate, and the criticisms he has leveled are nothing that hasn't been said previously. The ICC's reply (CricInfo, 24 March) focussed on the ultimately unimportant infighting in USACA, and avoided any mention of criticisms leveled at USACA practices and general dysfuntionality leveled by top ICC officials in public statements previously. The response does seem to lay out at least some of the requirements laid on USACA as conditions for retention of status, and sets deadlines that USACA will need to make a strong and serious effort to meet.
As far as actual play is concerned, MLC planned to hold the first California Cricket Cup tournament over the Easter weekend (CricInfo article, 6 April), in Los Angeles. Four teams, two of which paricipated in last fall's MLC Interstate Tournament/Clive Lloyd Cup, were to participate. As of the posting of this article, there has been no report on whether the tournament was actually held, and if so, what the outcome was.
Also a hopeful note for US cricket: According to a note posted in CricInfo's Beyond the Test World blog by Tony Munro, USACA is to be named as the host of the Third Division of the World Cup Qualifying Series for 2007.
A March 4 meeting called by Clifford Hinds to discuss junior cricket and its future direction was dominated by USACA staff and NYC metropolitan area cricket organizations, according to Deb Das's March 13 report. Disappointingly, but perhaps understandably given USACA's previous attitudes, many independent cricket organizations declined the open invitation issued by Mr Hinds to participate in the meeting.
Little or nothing appears to have been actually resolved, but several important issues facing US junior cricket were raised, and several committees were announced to address some of them. It remains to be seen whether USACA can overcome its past, its inertia, and its mindset, and take US cricket in a new direction.
A March 6 CricInfo article outlines some of the recommendations that have been made to USACA's Constitution Committee, and those recommendations outline what would be a radical change in direction for USACA, if they were to be implemented. The highlighed recommendations concentrate on improving input from and communication with "the field" (the clubs and players), and also on making USACA's operatrions far more transparent. Also in the recommendation is a specific effort to promote cricket outside the "cricket expat" community.
If implemented, these recommendations could well represent an entirely new direction for US cricket, and a far more positive one than has been seen in recent times. It is to be hoped that this will, in fact, come to pass.
According to a March 3 CricInfo story, 2006 looks to be an active year for junior cricket in the US, with five national tournaments announced.
Major League Cricket will be involved in two of the five, with a U15 tournament in Nashville, TN, and a U19 in Houston, TX, both at the end of May.
USACA has announced that they will be sponsoring a U15 and a U13 in the San Francisco Bay area, both at the end of June, and two U19 regional championships the following week (Eastern Conference in NY, Western Conference in northern CA), with the two regional champions meeting in a 'Super League' at a time and place yet to be announced.
Going by recent happenings in US cricket, it's reasonable to assume that MLC's two events have a reasonably high probability of coming off well; the same cannot at present be said for the USACA events. Nevertheless, the announcement of these events may itself be taken as a positive sign for cricket in the USA.
A March 1 CricInfo story reveals that USACA has not been keeping the ICC "in the loop" on progress in resolving the disputes that led to their suspension from the ICC and the withholding of all funding, including $10,000 that would have gone to preparing the U-19 World Cup team. The attitude and performance of USACA is now an issue that will be discussed at the Dubai meeting of the ICC executive board in April, and USACA and its head, Gladstone Dainty, are expected to be grilled on the charges that Bernard Cameron (president of Major League Cricket) leveled against USACA in his letter requesting that USACA be ousted from the USA's seat on the ICC, and the seating of MLC as the USA representative. It is clear now, however, that while the ICC has at present politely declined to act on MLC's request, the letter has provoked some hard looks by the ICC at USACA, and the evidence that has leaked through USACA's secrecy seems to suggest that USACA is losing wiggle room, and will soon have to either act, or risk losing their privileged position in US cricket.