What now, New York?
When winning the toss is not enough.
As cricket in 2008 limps across the finish line here in New York, it's a good time to begin reflecting on the season. It may have been a season of discontent for some, or a moment(s) of jubilation for others. Whichever side of the fence you happen to find yourself, it is still an opportune time to gather a perspective of sorts, which may help going forward.
By John L. Aaron
As cricket in 2008 limps across the finish line here in New York, it's a good time to begin reflecting on the season. It may have been a season of discontent for some, or a moment(s) of jubilation for others. Whichever side of the fence you happen to find yourself, it is still an opportune time to gather a perspective of sorts, which may help going forward. Why? Because if we fail to acknowledge or learn from our mistakes, we are destined to repeat them.
Three dynamic elements that contribute to the success of the sport of cricket in the New York metropolitan area - cricketers, administrators and supporters. The latter category includes official sponsors and anonymous financial backers, as well. Those three elements are interdependent upon each other, for the successful promotion and enjoyment of the sport; always. Therefore, it is no surprise that when one of the three fails to ignite, there is every possibility that the sport will not roll forward.
During this year, we have seen the United States of America Cricket Association (USACA) reinstated by the world's governing body; the International Cricket Council (ICC), following two successive suspensions for poor governance and issues of non-compliance. With a new constitution, fresh elections, some new faces, new energy, renewed funding from the ICC and a shot at having our national senior team climb out of the doldrums, cricket pundits across this nation looked forward to a brave new world of cricket. The enthusiasm was also fuelled by the passion that Twenty20 cricket was bringing to the four corners of the earth.
The Coin Toss
As many a skipper would acknowledge, winning the toss is not enough to win the match, although at times, it may have a significant impact on the outcome of the match, for one team or the other. Having won the toss, it is often left up to the team and the skipper who made the favorable call, to elect to bat or bowl. That first decision is sometimes a pre-determined one, or one made in consultation with the rest of the team after the coin toss. Either way, a skipper does not intentionally make a "bad" decision, at least not consciously, one would imagine.
Scripting for Success
With USACA national elections a fait accompli, local elections for a Regional Administration in New York and the other regions of the USA, were finally completed. New York with a rich tradition and culture of cricket, and seven leagues poised to embrace the shorter version of the game – Twenty20, launched 2008 with the Mayor's Cup, sponsored by the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. The cooperation of all the league Presidents was instrumental in the successful completion of the tournament, as the group worked diligently along with the United States of America Cricket Umpires Association (USACUA). It was a rather successful start to the season.
The success of that senior tournament was further enhanced by the highly organized and successful launch of cricket in the New York City public schools athletic program (PSAL). That youth program supported by several of the New York leagues, was followed by an equally successful New York City Police Department (NYPD) cricket program, featuring six teams assembled and outfitted by the NYPD's Police Foundation.
Thus, the coin had been tossed and New York called it right, or did they?
To Bat or Bowl
Parallel to all the flurry of cricket activity in New York City, was an elected Regional Administration that represented the New York Cricket Region, headed by an elected Regional Director chairing the assembly of seven leagues, each represented by their respective Presidents, and supplemented by a Youth Cricket Coordinator, a Women's Cricket Coordinator, and two Members-at-Large.
What would the administration do, having won the toss? In American football parlance, punting is sometimes the only option, or least calculated risk available. Would New York punt, run the ball or pass?
Sadly, New York's quarterback appears lost for plays, and with a group of players around him, who are looking for the type of dynamic leadership needed to arrest the momentum of winning the toss and executing flawlessly. Winning the toss is not enough, if you don't have orchestrated moves to put into play.
Preparing for Success
Strategic plans are rarely taken off of a shelf somewhere, they are the fruits of desire, vision, passion and an acute understanding of the dynamics involved. Those qualities are best found in the leadership of visionaries, beyond an ability to chair meetings and delegate responsibilities. However, some strategic plans are the products of cooperative and bi-partisan efforts. Nonetheless, any such initiative begins with the person at the helm germinating or pitching an idea or a thought, and getting others to buy into that idea. On the contrary, when a leader looks to his followers for leadership, it undermines the strength of his leadership, or abilities therein.
New York has undoubtedly won the toss, now what? Winning the toss is only earning the right to decide what to do next, and at a pace that keeps you ahead of the rest. If New York is expected to be managed (not governed) by committee, then that must be the expectation of both the "management and staff."
Seizing the Moment
Fortunately, some staff has seized the initiative to develop their areas of interest, while others are garnering support and ideas to launch their initiatives. I refer specifically to the Youth and Women's Cricket programs in New York.
The rather vibrant youth program unfortunately is the product of an outside "agency," that effectively manages the energetic Under-15 and Under-19 youth initiatives, with very little help, financial and otherwise, if any at all from the regional administration. Shameful indeed, but before it is perceived as hurling barbs at those who sit on the regional administration, one must examine from where did the support for the adequate representation of the region at national trials and tournaments for our youths come. It is obvious that the broad-based support is there. Then why can't the regional administration harness, coalesce and manage that support, all under the umbrella of the New York Cricket Region? Therein, lies the need for a more assertive and dynamic leadership.
The 2008 season saw the New York Regional Administration twice reject the suggestion that New York be represented at USACA youth cricket activities, and on both occasions a well coached squad was selected and financed to represent a less than supportive regional administration, and did so successfully. That was only made possible, because some of the visionary leadership resides on the outside of the circle, and are often rebuffed for suggesting that the inner leadership take a more responsible role.
Unilaterally dismissing ideas, concepts, suggestions, and offers of help, appear to be the order of the day by the Regional Director Jeffroy Morrishaw. That is the prerogative of the chair; however, those suggestions should be replaced with ideas from the chairman, ideas that are supported by the wider administrative group. Until such time, any idea and/or suggestion should be fully examined and discussed on its merit.
With the recognized coach of the regional youths "suspended" by an equally dismissive USACA President, the New York Region adopted a stance supportive of the unwarranted suspension, without examining the merits of such action, or appealing for a stay of execution, until a hearing by the national body. Such a spineless position is indicative of the distance being created between an administration and a program under its axis, as well as an apparent disinterest in a vibrant youth cricket program, linked to the region.
In this case, the regional body showed a callous and total disregard for the psychological well-being of the very youngsters it should be embracing as the future of cricket in the region and the country. It would have been plausible, if a letter was dispatched to the USACA board, seeking a delay of action in the matter, until after the national Under-19 tournament in Florida. Instead, like the unilateral decision not to send a participating team to the national championships, the Regional Director, misinterpreted the USACA constitution and sided with the USACA President in upholding the earlier decision of the latter.
Wanted: Dynamic Leadership
Cricket at the grassroots level is critically important to the overall success of the national organization - USACA. However, the collective spirit of cricket in the New York region is far more energetic than that which obtains at the national level.
New York is blessed with a group of purpose-driven league Presidents, other cricket administrators and stakeholders. However, capturing all that energy under the same lid requires a less high-handed approach than that which currently prevails. A simple remedy would be a suggested bullet point vision by the Regional Director, for where cricket in the region should be headed. Such plans may include short-term and long-term strategic goals.
The fault, however, does not lie solely at the feet of the Regional Director, after all, accountability is not only the responsibility of the leader, but those who continue to accept the status-quo of poor governance.
All the members of the New York regional administration need to step up to the plate, and decide where they would like to see cricket taken. In doing so, they would demonstrate their seriousness as leaders of the sport in this region, with or without a judicious Regional Director. I am certainly not advocating mutiny, but merely suggesting that it behooves this group of men and lady to not sit idly by and watch cricket in our region continue to be run by others, who have the game at heart and the capacity to positively demonstrate that, from the outside.
So far, the regional administration has had the rather difficult job of managing the senior team's participation in the national tournament, and is currently struggling to complete an inter-league schedule, or to clearly manage the expectations of the winner with regards to prize money, allegedly promised. All while an ad hoc group - Tri-State Youth Development, Inc. has executed vibrant coaching programs, several tournaments, and orchestrated the means of getting both an Under-15 and Under-19 squad to the national trials and tournament, respectively. This group, with far less than the number of people sitting on the regional administration, were able to guide our youths and bring home a national Under-19 championship title.
Were it not for the efforts of such a hard-working and dynamic group of individuals, New York would have very little to brag about. Having won the proverbial toss, a game plan must be in play. Now, is the time for accountability, and the New York Cricket Region to stand and exhibit some character, while presenting a clear vision of where they would like to see junior, senior and women's cricket headed in the region. Mr. Morrishaw must lead from the front with some original, innovative and dynamic proposals, or the rest of the administration must step up and do the right thing.
With the recent success of the New York Region's talented Under-19 squad, the region should be capitalizing on the squad's success, as a vehicle for branding the image of cricket in the region, while using the national championship success as leverage towards greater community involvement. Such long term branding will undoubtedly draw support from the business community. However, that support will not come without a plan of action aimed at building upon the success of the youths who represent the future of the sport, not only in New York, but across this vast country.
With the recent failure of the US national senior team to climb out of the World Cricket League's Division 5 bucket in Jersey, it must become apparent that the focus on the future of cricket in this country has shifted to our youth. Therefore, we must now harness and support the energy that abounds within such a group.
Taking to the Field
New York, having won the toss by virtue of the sheer number of leagues, clubs, an energetic group of young cricketers, supportive parents, a very willing City of New York Parks and Recreation Department, Borough President's Office, local politicians, supporting "players" such as the Mayor's Cup, the Ed Ahmad Cup, the PSAL, the NYPD, generous sponsors, committed businesses, and two resident members of the USACA board, appears to have most, if not all of the ingredients to take to the field, with confidence.
Unfortunately, that confidence can only be exhibited through the actions of an energetic and vibrant regional administration, that is led by a vibrant and energetic Regional Director, who is committed to helping develop cricket in the region, while seeking ways to encourage the three dynamic groups - cricketers, administrators and supporters, to be an integral part of the euphoric rise of cricket in this neck of the woods. Thus, we will prove to the world that having won the toss, we are quite capable of winning the match - as a team.