The ICC is more than mildly optimistic this new constituted body will have the personnel, the know-how, the wherewithal, to finally "achieve the enormous potential" it has long declared for the game in this country.
By Tom Melville
[Tom Melville is a cricket historian and author of 'The Tented Field: A History of Cricket in America.' The views expressed in this article are his own and do not reflect the views of DreamCricket.com].
After more than two years of twists, turns, and delays, not to mention a great infusion of cash and manpower, United States cricket has, at last, a new governing body. With barely six thousand enrolled members, it's an organization that can hardly be said to reflect the expected "diversity" and "inclusiveness" of cricket in this country.
But the organization has the one thing that really matters: the blessing of the ICC, which, after enduring decades of resistance, frustration and outright annoyance with previous USA cricket administrations, can now find more than a little relief in knowing it's finally brought the Problem Child of world cricket back in line.
Above all, the ICC is more than mildly optimistic this new constituted body will have the personnel, the know-how, the wherewithal, to finally "achieve the enormous potential" it has long declared for the game in this country.
It's a proclamation we've heard many times, for many years, from the ICC, though the people in Dubai have never really explained what exactly they understand by this "great market potential" or how it will come about. The OED defines "potential" as "something that did not exist before" but now does, so can we assume the ICC means by this "great market potential" the expansion of the game out of its historical confines of the expat community to the wider world of mainstream America, to make cricket a game of the 300, not just the 5-10, million?
If we can, in fact, make this assumption then this immediately begs the question: where are the signs, the roadmap to this "great market potential"? Does the ICC see it in the twenty some first class matches that have, to date, been staged in Lauderhill, which, after nearly ten years, continue to be totally ignored by mainstream Americans, totally shunned by the mainstream American media? Does it see it in the New York City schools cricket program, which, after more than ten years, has failed to attract more than a smattering of mainstream American students, and a program that, though designated as a co-ed sport, does not have a single girls cricket team?
Or does it see the "great market potential" in its own mysterious NIRSA (National Intramural-Sports Association) initiative? Never officially announced, and, to date, virtually unmentioned through the ICC or USACricket social media, and only twice by NIRSA itself, none since December, the initiative has been all but unknown to the wider cricket community, a blanket of secrecy that can't but raise serious suspicions about the programs effectiveness and progress to an extent that we must brace ourselves for the shocking possibility that the ICC's largest, most heavily financed, initiative in North America has, after nearly two years, failed to bring a single American college student into the game.
If this long, depressing, record of ineffectiveness hasn't in any way deterred the ICC from its faith in the "great market potential" for America cricket, it should certainly raise serious concerns for anyone, in both this country and abroad, with the true interest of the game at heart.
The mission for the cricket community has always been clear, straightforward, and unequivocal: America is your market. Cricket is your product. You are the salesman. How many sales have been made? Not how many grounds have been built, not how many combines have been run, not how many clinics arranged, or tournaments held, but how many mainstream Americans have been brought into the game in the capacity of players, spectators or any other form of active engagement?
With the readily available and widely used excuses of incompetent management, lack of funding, absence of opportunities, now dead and gone, the terrifying possibility (certainly terrifying in its implied finality) begins to loom over the game: that the cricket community just does not know how to sell their game to Americans. That no matter how well funded, not matter how persistent, their efforts, the cricket community just seems to display a systemic inability to get mainstream Americans to recognize value in their product.
The reasons for this may be debated, but lengthy and close observation of the American cricket scene seems to point to the cricket community's inability to look at their game through the eyes of mainstream Americans, to put themselves in the shoes of the baseball bred, hyperactive, Joe Average American and, above all, the inability (or unwillingness) to recognize that cricket will never be accepted by Americans as something imposed upon them from without, but only as something that comes forth from within their own sporting culture, to recognize this game as "something of ours".
And with only one member of the newly constituted USACricket board of directors born and raised in the United States (and this individual himself a first generation immigrant from a cricket country), which means this administration, like all other previous USA cricket administrations, will have no official input from mainstream America, any prospects that the reality of this crippling barrier will even be acknowledged, much less officially addressed, must remain bleak.
If the original plans outlined (more correctly dictated) for USA cricket by the ICC continue on course, all of this will most likely be dropped in the lap of the future CEO, who will be left to his own devices to somehow deliver on this elusive "great market potential."
But if the foregoing analysis is ever acknowledged, or accepted, as a new basis for future priorities and policies for American cricket development, then one, only one, and nothing but one, requirement should appear on the job description for that position: MUST BE ABLE TO SELL CRICKET TO AMERICANS.