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By Jamie Harrison
US cricket fans who have been following DreamCricket's coverage of the USA-Windies U19 series almost certainly recognize that we are being outclassed in every category by which these two national teams might be measured. Judging from the comments that have been posted, it also seems as if many of these fans are sincerely surprised by the magnitude of the defeats. If one examines the situation in depth, however, it really could not have been any other way.
What we are witnessing demonstrates the vast gulf between not just the two sides, not even between the two national programs, but really between two cricket cultures. This goes far deeper than just this team or this series and cannot be rectified in the short term.
No program of preparation on Friday would have appreciably changed the fitness or abilities of the players before the matches, and no amount of clever coaching maneuvers would have brought Team USA to within 100 runs of Windies. It must also now be admitted that there are probably no eleven U19 players in the United States that, were they selected, would have gotten close to the Windies this weekend.
We are a nation with a vast geography, speckled with only a handful of training facilities and even fewer decent junior programs. We have few professional cricket coaches and no professional cricketers. Even if an American cricket prodigy were somehow discovered, we would not have the means to properly develop his talents.
The good news is that there is one solution to all of the above challenges: increase the number of children playing cricket.
If millions of children were learning cricket in their schools and playgrounds, this would provide the basis for thousands of "little league" cricket programs, which would not only grow young cricketers, but would do the same for new adult cricket fans, drawn largely from supportive family members learning the game through their children. Cricket fans create a cricket marketplace, which brings money and infrastructure into the game. These fans would also be the fan base for the new T20 league being planned for next year.
Of the millions of eager young players, thousands would no doubt be willing to pay for advanced cricket coaching, spawning and supporting a new cricket coaching industry of cricket academies and cricket entrepreneurs that would help to professionalize this critical aspect of the sport. The presence of highly trained international coaches in US cricket would be commonplace.
From these thousands of children, high-quality junior cricket leagues would spring up across the country, aiding in the coaching and development process.
Within a few years, the quality of our U13s would dramatically improve, followed in intervals by the U15s, U17s & U19s. Within ten years, the senior team would start to feel the impact of the cultural shift. Within 15 years, our national teams would be considered legitimate threats to win major international tournaments.
And in that last statement comes the problem that has always plagued US cricket - impatience.
Let's face it - most cricketers and coaches are only interested in those who already have the fundamentals in place, and this eliminates all but a few. However, without a large mass market to draw on, none of the necessary infrastructure pieces I described above can exist, which deprives even the most promising young player of the chance to develop his potential to the fullest.
If we aspire to dominate Canada and Bermuda, the current structure is fine. However, if we ever want to give a team from the Windies cause for concern, a long-term solution must be embraced, and that solution starts with getting millions of children playing cricket in America. And that's why USYCA's work is central to the future of US cricket, and should receive the enthusiastic support of not only USACA and the ICC, but also anyone who dreams of one day watching US teams compete at the highest levels of international cricket.