USA cricket historian Tom Melville writes an open letter to the future CEO of USA Cricket.
To whom it may concern,
Above all, know what you're getting into. That this is cricket in America, an animal unlike any other on the face of the planet. Every one of your predecessors who held a full time cricket position in North America (former CEOs, NIRSA cricket directors, regional development managers) did not, and their terms were short, ineffective and highly forgettable. And though never publicly stated, most must have left thinking: "I made a mistake taking this job." The path to cricket failure in this country is broad; the path to success is narrow.
If you do not come from a cricket background know you'll be in a strange, bewildering, world involved daily with a sport that, though in America, is completely out of sight, out of mind, of the average American. If you come from a cricket playing background know that you are no longer in a cricket culture, where your sport which was admired, aspired to, looked up to, is now a sport ignored, unknown, and even ridiculed here. Your self reliance, your perseverance, will have to be Herculean.
Know that there are two separate, distinct and polar opposite cricket markets in this country: one in reality (the expat cricket community) the other only in potential (mainstream Americans). Which do you serve? Do you settle into the comfortable, supportive, bubble world of the expat community and only cater to their needs? No one will hold it against you for taking this path of least resistance. Certainly not the expat community. Certainly no Americans. And certainly not the ICC, not knowing this is the path that sneers upon their dreams of cricket's "great market potential."
Or do you acknowledge that cricket has no future in this country unless someone rolls up their sleeves and takes upon themselves the heavy lifting of selling the game to mainstream Americans? If this becomes your priority know that with this mission you will be left, like every one else who, without exception, has taken on this task, to find your way totally on your own; dropped down into a trackless forest with no map or compass to find your own way out. No college course, no business seminar, on how to sell cricket to Americans out there.
Rock the boat. Let it be known from the very get-go that its not going to be business as usual. Every program, every initiative, every individual, will now be evaluated and judged by one and only one criterion: Is this, or is this not, moving cricket forward in this country? If not, it must be coldly reevaluated, revised, modified, or if need be, completely discarded or eliminated. Henceforth cricket development in this country must be results driven, not effort driven, and that "the good old college try" will no longer be an acceptable expectation.
Be willing to listen to anyone, anywhere, anytime. Why? Because you never know where you'll find a good idea. If the powers that be were going like gangbusters selling cricket to Americans you wouldn't have to do this. But the cricket powers are floundering, and floundering badly (the NIRSA catastrophe leaves no doubt about that), and you are just as likely to find a good idea from some unknown on a small town cricket sandlot in this country as you are from executives in the corporate suites of Dubai.
To this end your very first order of business must be the announcement of several town hall meetings around the country, convocations dedicated to one single, solitary, proposition: How do we move cricket forward in this country? And don't just wait for people to come to you. You'll discover soon enough through social media who are the individuals around the country who have the well being of this game at heart. Email them. Tweet them. "We're building the future of cricket in this country. We want your input." And this means inviting not just the title men, the well-wishers, but the gadflies, the outsiders. The future is at stake and no stone must be left unturned.
Perhaps no great ideas or insights will come from this, but at least no one can say they didn't have their chance to have their say, their input, on the direction of the game in this country.
The expectations of your position are enormous, momentous, possibly unfairly so, and no one will blame you if the weight of cricket history defeats you as it has every other hope and expectation for the game in this country for the last 150 years. But even the most modest sign of progress, that the corner is at last beginning to be turned, will be a success that equals the greatest success story in sports history.