Cricket Challenges & Opportunities

Indra Nooyi to join ICC Board. That can only be good for USA Cricket.

2018 Feb 09 by DreamCricket USA

Ms Nooyi's appointment bodes well for cricket development in the U.S. and the timing could not be better.   She will join the global ICC board the same month that USA Cricket will appoint a new board and chairman.  

By Venu Palaparthi

The International Cricket Council (ICC) today announced that PepsiCo Chairman and CEO Indra Nooyi has been appointed to the ICC Board as the organization’s first independent female director. Ms Nooyi will join the Board in June 2018 following the unanimous confirmation of her appointment at today’s meeting. 

Ms Nooyi's appointment bodes well for cricket development in the U.S. and the timing could not be better.   She will join the global ICC board the same month that USA Cricket will appoint a new board and chairman.  

Here in the U.S., cricket has been generally thought of as a quaint pastime of the unassimilated rather than a sport that epitomizes strategy and endurance.   When Joseph O'Neill wrote the acclaimed 2008 book "Netherland" with New York cricket at its very soul, The New Yorker reviewer wrote: "Despite cricket’s seeming irrelevance to America, the game makes his exquisitely written novel “Netherland” a large fictional achievement.."   

Ten years later, cricket is beginning to emerge from those 'irrelevant' shadows.  

The sport's growth at the grassroots has been nothing short of incredible, and that is despite the lack of any meaningful or lasting contributions by the folks that have governed the sport.   The growth was mainly achieved due to the mostly uncoordinated yet deeply passionate efforts of the country's recreational cricketers.   Like ants, these folks at the grassroots have been busy at work with scant guidance.   They have been organizing community kids camps, starting up schools leagues, launching academies, holding workshops, conducting tournaments, securing grounds, building stadiums, and conducting tours.  Throughout the last two decades, cricket has also benefited from the influx of engineers and technology workers.  Many of them played some form of cricket.  Some developed cricket websites and created live video streams.  And the rest read those websites and watched those streams.  All of this has made the cricket community a vibrant one with a large insatiable appetite for even more cricket.  

To have an American corporate leader as powerful and influential as Ms Nooyi be that closely associated with the sport globally is truly a gamechanger.  Ms Nooyi's appointment greatly enhances cricket's credibility in the corporate world.  There is already a very strong association of cricket with success.  Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft, has said that he was "more into cricket than academics."  Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google, has spoken about dreaming of becoming a cricketer from his childhood.  About Anshu Jain, the President of New York based Cantor Fitzgerald, his friend Tunku Varadarajan once wrote: "He knows cricket better than any non-cricketer I’ve encountered, and is steeped as much in its nuance and theory as in its delicious trivia."  He also speculated that life after banking would bring with it some formal involvement with the game for Jain.  "If ever there were a job pitch-perfect for Anshu Jain, it is as [ICC] president."  Ms Nooyi edged past Mr Jain into the ICC boardroom.  Of course not in any executive capacity, but as an independent director.  But she opened the batting.

To call Ms Nooyi a cricket fan is a complete understatement.  Ms Nooyi has frequently spoken about the virtues of cricket.  Upon being named ICC's first independent director, Nooyi said, “I love the game of cricket. I played it as a teenager and in college, and to this day, I cherish the lessons the game taught me about teamwork, integrity, respect, and healthy competition."  

"I look forward to working with my colleagues on the board, ICC’s incredible partners, and cricketers around the world to grow our sport responsibly and give our fans a new reason to follow every ball and shot," Ms Nooyi said about her role.  Ms Nooyi is herself a that new reason to play cricket here in America.  In a country where there are no cricketing role models, Ms Nooyi is a shining example for the next generation of boys and girls.  

I am thinking wishfully here, but there is another dimension as well.  PepsiCo is the beverage king of North American sport and has very successful partnerships with NFL, NHL and NBA.  According to one industry source, PepsiCo 'outspent all other companies in sponsorships, topping $360 million in 2016.'   Globally, Pepsi already sponsors ICC's cricket events worldwide.  Perhaps more pertinently for a developing sport, Pepsi was MLS and US Soccer's first ever beverage partner - a partnership that lasted from the league's inaugural season in 1996 to 2015.   Perhaps some of that pixie dust will be sprinkled on USA Cricket as the cricket organization spreads wings and sets off on its own flight path.