The day's proceedings were moderated by Mike Haysman, the Los Angeles based cricket commentator. "We won't have all the answers today. But there will be considered views," Haysman hoped at the outset, adding "Let's hope we have some cohesion and agreement on what's going on, what the future is."
By Venu Palaparthi
The ICC USA Cricket Town Hall at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare was easily the best attended USA town hall in recent times. Some 85 administrators attended the event. Besides representatives from over 40 hard ball cricket leagues, leaders of several youth and women's programs, tennis ball cricket leagues and umpiring administrators were also present.
Representing the ICC were the organization's CEO David Richardson, Development Manager Tim Anderson and ICC Americas staff – Ben Kavenagh, Tom Evans and Wade Edwards. The attendee list included heads of several ACF member leagues and CCUSA affiliates. Also, the boards of ACF and CCUSA attended in full force led by Jagan Jagannathan (Chairman of ACF) and Maq Qureshi (Chairman of CCUSA).
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Members of the USACA Board were conspicuous by their absence and there were some whispers about a boycott. In the afternoon, one of the attendees asked David Richardson whether the USACA Board had been invited to the meeting. Richardson replied on the affirmative and said that the point of the town hall was to bring everyone together.
It wasn't as if there was nobody from USACA. Vincent Adams, USACA's ICC Liaison and Member of the ICC Local Advisory Group, was present and will presumably report back to USACA Board. Representatives of several key USACA member leagues and regions were also present including Quazi Zaman and Nikhil Deshpande of Washington Cricket League, Suren Gandavaram of Atlanta Georgia Cricket Conference, Jai Muthu of North Texas Cricket Association, Mir Ali (USACA CE Regional Director), Vamsi Chada (USACA CW Regional Director), Kuljeet Nijjar of DCL, Jagannath Poosarla (USACA CW Youth Coordinator) and Hemant Buch (USACA NW Regional Director).
Usman Shuja (Player Representative) and Jim Isch (former COO of the NCAA) of the Local Advisory Group participated in a panel discussion in the afternoon. Patrick Sandusky of USOC and Nigel Melville of USA Rugby could not join due to prior commitments. Mike Young, international coach, and Dan Migala, CEO of US based Property Consulting Group, also attended and the latter made a fervent pitch for a rational and targeted plan (more on that in Part 2).
Also present was Jamie Harrison, USYCA founder and passionate advocate of youth cricket who has been an outspoken critic of both USACA and ICC. Harrison was sufficiently impressed with the proceedings and he called the meeting 'as close to a display of an administrative "spirit of cricket' as one could imagine.'
The day’s proceedings were moderated by Mike Haysman, the Los Angeles based cricket commentator. “We won’t have all the answers today. But there will be considered views,” Haysman hoped at the outset, adding “Let’s hope we have some cohesion and agreement on what’s going on, what the future is.” By the end of the evening, everything he had hoped for was accomplished and he was happy about the positivity and camaraderie that was on display.
After a brief introduction by Tim Anderson, David Richardson kicked off the day's proceedings at 10:30 am by asking everyone present to be tolerant of each other's views. He reminded the audience that the ICC was a member led non-profit organization and he sought to clarify the various misconceptions about the ICC and its mission and target areas. After spending the money the ICC needed to spend on major events, the organization distributed the surplus funds across 105 member countries which were used for competitions, services such as education and anti-corruption and for the development program.
"Recent changes to ICC governance, together with a new strategy, have resulted in the ICC Board having a more global perspective," Richardson said, adding that the new leadership of the ICC pushed the priority of the game towards game and market development and were of the view that the game needed qualification pathways that were merit-based which led to more competitive teams at the highest level. "From a scorecard-based approach that we have used in the past, we are moving towards accountability for performance," Richardson noted citing recent performances by Ireland and Afghanistan, two countries that had successfully transitioned from the World Cricket League to ODI Future Tours Program.
The focus of ICC in next five years is to make sure that more teams play good cricket that puts them on that merit based path. He said that the ICC's goal was to have 16 teams competing at the top level fo T20, 12 teams that could compete for Women's T20, 10 competitive teams at the 2019 Cricket World Cup with 18 men's teams that had a good shot at qualifying (8 and 12 for women's teams) and 10 teams that each had the capability to win a Test series.
"The ICC wants to support the development of a meaningful strategy for the future promotion and development of cricket in the USA," Richardson noted before adding, "We want the USA as a team at the World T20 in (the year) 2020 and playing in the 2019 World Cup."
Speaking about USACA's suspension, Richardson said that a few points needed to be clarified. He said that in order to benefit from the ICC resources, members needed to pay careful consideration to membership criteria as laid out in the ICC constitution and to ICC's funding policy.
"Be and act like a responsible governing body," he implored asking everyone to work for unity and put away negativity. Suggesting that the suspension was not a rushed decision, he took time to walk everyone through the various steps that ICC had taken ahead of USACA's latest suspension, he said that the ICC had written a letter to USACA in January 2015 expressing concerns about the way the sport was being governed in USA. "Could USACA say it was truly representative of cricket across the board?" he asked emphasizing that although lots of cricket was being played, these efforts were not connected and many leagues that were not affiliated with USACA. The letter also raised concerns about USACA's financial situation, Richardson noted. The ICC received a response in February but that response did not contain all the information.
Following that, USACA was invited to Dubai, "but there still were too many unanswered questions and we could not make a decision on whether to suspend on not. So we were authorized to go out to USA and conduct a review on the status of cricket here. We did that. We interviewed 100 stakeholders including USACA, ACF, former players, potential investors, as many people as we could. A report was submitted to the board in June meetings," he said adding that USACA was given the opportunity to supplement their previous responses, if they had anything to add.
Richardson said that there was a realization that to be the governing body of cricket in USA was extremely challenging because of its size and diversity. "The fact that there is no cricket culture and most cricket is played by expats, we took these into account," he said. Richardson said that the ICC had come to the conclusion that USACA was not representative of a majority of the cricket that was played in the US. "There was no money available for development, there was no administration. It is a vicious circle. Accordingly, game was just not developing in the US."
Richardson asserted that suspension was not the same as expulsion. Speaking about the reinstatement conditions, Richardson noted that there were 39 conditions in all and highlighted the key points - to revise and implement a new governance structure, to address the disconnect among the stakeholders and to develop a shared strategy. Meanwhile, as per ICC constitution, benefits such as participation and funding may be suspended at the discretion of the ICC Board. He noted that the ICC did not want to prejudice players on the participation front.
Responding to a question from Shuja Khan of PCL and CCUSA as to whether the ICC would recognize another group if USACA was expelled, Richardson said, "Whether it is USACA in its current form or different form, whether it is a newly constituted body – ACF or Cricket Council USA. It is immaterial. It has to be representative." He suggested that everyone should talk of themselves as USA cricket instead of one group or the other.
A representative of North Texas Cricket Association asked "why now." Richardson was candid in his response. He said that there was a realization amongst ICC board that cricket cannot survive with just 5 or 6 countries playing well. ICC's strategy was to get more competitive teams. "We need to target teams with potential. 10 years ago, Irish cricket was similar to USA cricket, 80 clubs had to vote. But an independent board catalyzed Ireland’s sudden rise in rankings. In my mind, USA and Canada have potential."
Praising all the league administrators, he said, "In many countries, club cricket is disappearing. In USA, you have strong leagues and more cricket. That is a huge advantage. Don’t give up what you are doing. That is all good work that we can harness in the future." Right now, it was time to start the process for developing a shared vision and strategy as well as the most effective governance structure. Setting a timeline for that process, he said that the strategy would be developed and presented to the ICC Board by October and by June of next year, it would be ready to be implemented by what he hoped was a united cricket community.
Editor's Note: Part 2 tomorrow will cover the Strategy Development Session that was led by Ben Kavenagh and Dan Migala. In Part 3 on Thursday, DreamCricket will report on the Panel Discussion and Question and Answer session that followed.
Images Courtesy: ICC