While my boss has been on holiday wearing ridiculously coloured blazers, I’ve been entrusted with understanding cricket in America. It is a complete shambles.
The United States of America Cricket Association (USACA) were today suspended for failing to meet the deadlines imposed by the ICC who had insisted a new constitution was in place by March 1. They’d already been granted an extension from December 31 2006 but they still couldn’t sort things out.
In between all the administrative muddle came this story of Peter Whitehead.
To compound the depression, the administration’s incompetence is at odds with a country whose passion for the sport is nothing short of fervent. This was perfectly demonstrated by Peter Whitehead, a 12-year-old who wrote to us this week with damning evidence of the USACA’s ineptitude. Not yet in his teens, Peter is the president of a youth cricket club at his school in Mesa, Arizona. Quite reasonably, he expected some form of assistance from his country’s board, but the trail was long and fruitless. He spoke to the USACA who told him to contact his local representative, who in turn sent him to the Arizona director, who palmed him off to the California director, who palmed him back to the Arizona director. And so on.
Eventually, Peter’s path took him to Major League Cricket (MLC) who, for seven months, led him to believe they would help him. They didn’t. MLC have been around for seven years; they have fought to oust the USACA in that time, even approaching the ICC 12 months ago in a bid to formally replace the incumbents with an MLC constitution. Why didn’t they help? Unperturbed by the setbacks Peter approached Urban Cricket while on holiday with his family, several thousand miles away in England. The ECB-funded venture hand out kits to children in Britain, and they gave Peter and his club eight plastic bats and balls. The USACA have done nothing for this young, keen cricketer and his story is not uncommon. So much for Gladstone Dainty, its president, insisting that the “youth and female cricket programmes are the priorities of USACA”.
The response to Peter’s trials has been startling. People with similar experiences have shared their problems; advice has been offered; offers for kit, pitches and matches have been made. There is a genuine love of the game in the United States but enthusiasm from fans and players is just not enough. Strong leadership and professionalism is required and, at the moment, the USACA is worryingly bereft of both.
It’s a humbling story. As sides of questionable ability (but plenty of dosh) prepare for their World Cup next week, the USA – with such an enormous number of players and clubs – can’t even form a new constitution.