|By Peter Simunovich |
When Ganesh Sanap, the President of the Northern California Cricket Association, saw US cricket CEO Don Lockerbie on his fact finding trip to California last weekend he closed his eyes and thought to himself just how much things had changed in the 13 years he had been involved in the game on the West coast.
USACA CEO Lockerbie with U-15 cricketers in Bay Area
In that time he had not seen a senior cricket administrator from the USA Cricket Association even though invitations and requests had been made many times.
"This is a good sign," said Sanap, who lives in Santa Clara, and heads an association of 37 teams and four divisions, one of the largest and oldest in US cricket.
Lockerbie spent the weekend in northern California visiting administrators, volunteers, players, coaches, umpires and fans to listen to their thoughts and to explain his plans and hopes to revitalize the game in the US and to take the national team to the top 15 in the world.
"He was pretty passionate in promoting the game. He wants to see the US in the 2015 World Cup in Australia and he would like to see more Americans playing the game," said Sanap. "He wants to bring international teams to the US.
"He gave us a vision and we offered our help and if we all work together cricket can go a long way here."
By all accounts, Lockerbie, made an impression on his trip West. Administrators liked what they heard from the cricket chief.
"I came home feeling very energized," said Lockerbie. After talking and listening to many people he felt that cricket in the US was like an underground movement with an ethnic base and private clubs. He also felt the warmth of commitment and loyalty to the game from children to some who had been playing the game for 60 years.
"They were ready to turn it to the wonderful thing that it is," he said.
Hemant Buch, Chairman of the Western Region of US cricket, which includes Hawaii, hosted Lockerbie's visit, said the cricket chief met with more than 100 people, attended a dinner, breakfast, mixed with sponsors, attended Under 13 and Under 11 games at the California Cricket Academy and spoke to the youngsters.
In a conversation with the children, one of them told Lockerbie: "I want to play for the US cricket team," which must have pleased him.
He also watched a match with senior players, visited a field with new turf wickets, attended a fund raiser, met with administrators from a local college about a possible cricket program and his willingness to speak to everyone from children up showed that he cared about the future of the game as a whole and not just the US national team.
"Don certainly has energized cricket here. He also has a sharp marketing mind, which cricket has lacked," said Buch. "He knows the ropes and has cut through the bureaucracies and political fences. I think he will represent us well at the ICC (International Cricket Conference) and lead us in the right direction.
"He was a good listener when he spoke to people and is concerned about the future of the game and knows how important it is to get the game to schools and colleges. He also talked about the importance of fundraising.
Lockerbie met with Bay Area cricketers over dinner on Friday
"It gave me a feeling that he really has a free hand in executing his job, which is a very welcome gesture by the US cricket board." Jaswinder Singh, the Chairman of the Bay Area Cricket Alliance, believes Lockerbie's plan to introduce cricket at grass roots level was the right way to go to help solidify the future of the game. "Yes, I would say he is a guy who can bring the game together. His ideas are to lay the groundwork for a better game," he said.
"His vision is what the game needs. It is very encouraging and his whole concept is unique -- he looks at all aspects of the game and wants to improve the game as a whole and not just with the US team.
"The game needs someone like him. It is perfect timing and the (US cricket) board is behind him and more united than before."
Even though Lockerbie has been in the job only a short time he has shown that he is on the way to unify the different factions that have fragmented the game for years.
"It was a wonderful trip, a whirlwind trip, Don hardly had time to breathe. It was so positive from as soon as we saw him to the time he left," said Raj Padhi, who is the regional representative and a USACA board member. "He spoke to all five leagues in the Bay Area and it was very well received by everyone.
"People are now more hopeful, more optimistic about cricket and because of Don the game is going somewhere. In the past a lot of people were fed up with administrators because they were not giving much hope. That has changed now."
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