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By Jamie Harrison
If you read enough commentary on this website and elsewhere, it’s easy to get the impression that there are a lot of angry American cricket supporters out there. Most of the comments express varying degrees of outrage because the writers believe that the custodians of the game aren't doing what they could to develop the game. Some call for a change in spending priorities, some call for a change in the selection process and others call for a change in leadership, but almost all call for change of some kind.
Pic (Right): Jamie Harrison
I would say that the wounds from which cricket in USA suffers are only partially self-inflicted. Yes, creative fiscal management can always do a little more with a little less. But understand, this lack of money is not "the problem," it's one symptom of the problem.
The real problem, from which all other problems flow, is a lack of broad-based acceptance by the American people for cricket. And make no mistake, cricket in USA will not have access to the funding and facilities it needs until it has garnered this broad national support - support that is impossible without an equally broad base of American children playing cricket.
Like a large sailing ship trapped at low tide, cricket awaits the day when a flood of youngsters will lift it from the shoals and allow it to reach open seas. Without the upward buoyancy provided by millions of children adopting our sport, we will continue to see little interest in cricket on the part of government, major corporate sponsors and the public in general. But there’s reason for hope.
Did you know that there are 42 million Americans under the age of 21? That's more than the entire population of Australia!
Think about it, if there were just a million children playing cricket in the United States, each cheered on by their parents, in how many ways would the cricket culture in this country be different? Cricket would at least be familiar to most Americans, as they would have seen it played somewhere, or perhaps saw a local youth league advertising it. Having a respectable market with which to work, cricket would be on TV more often, merchandise would be on store shelves in many places, and governments would be likely to listen to pleas for more and better grounds.
With a sizable cricket market in place, a professional league might have a chance to survive, creating new opportunities for many, and a new generation of American cricket heroes for our youth. Corporate sponsors would be willing to underwrite tournaments and events, because sponsors love to get at parents through their children. And as these cricket-playing children advanced in age, the necessary training facilities would grow up around them to satisfy their interest in becoming better cricketers. Soon, our national teams would have a flood of talented players from which to select, and our teams would find the funding to compete.
Not convinced? Still think that money is the single cure to all issues surrounding USA cricket?
Imagine for a moment that a cricket-loving billionaire died, and left a gift of $1 million to USACA. What an exciting time it would be as we all debated how best to spend or invest the largesse! Of course, there would be lots of loud, competing voices trying to get a piece of that check, which would likely cause it to be divided between these powerful interests.
For a time, our national teams would have better coaching, use of better training facilities and perhaps even a few fully professional players under contract. We might see a national advertising campaign to increase “cricket awareness.” USA national tournaments would be well funded and probably well organized, as no expense would be spared to provide a top-flight experience for the competitors.
Yes, all would be well – until the money ran out. The root problems facing cricket in USA: a lack of sponsorship, a lack of permanent infrastructure and a lack of interest from governments and the public in general, would remain unchanged. Overnight, the goodtime binging would come to a screeching halt, and commentators would lament how a million dollars came and went to no great effect.
So long as USA cricket lacks a broad base of support in America, changes at the top will be cosmetic and temporary in nature. No, the change must come from beneath, where the true strength of the USA lies, in its population and its wealth. As the President of USYCA, I believe that we should be the change we want to see in American cricket.
So, if you're committed to change, real long-term change, support organizations like USYCA. Because real change requires patience, dedication and persistence.
The prospect of working hard for an outcome that may be 10-15 years in the future may seem deflating, but those years are going to pass anyway. The alternative is to keep focused on people and events at the top, and watch those years go by with nothing changing - and then we'll be having this same conversation all over again, just 10-15 years more gray than we are today.
How deflating would that be?
[The opinions expressed are those of the author.]