On Thursday December 17th, the USA Cricket Board of Directors staged its quarterly Board Meeting remotely via video conference call. The Board considered the progress made during 2020 and received a series of updates from various committees on progress made over the last quarter.
Review of 2020
The Board considered the progress that had been made during 2020 across the key strategic objectives set out in the Foundational Plan. It was pleased to note that, despite the challenges brought about by COVID-19, a lot had been achieved and that USA Cricket was well placed on and off the field to build on the foundational progress made during 2021. A summary of those achievements can be found below:
USA Cricket Chief Executive, Iain Higgins, explained, “In a year which has been dominated by financial and cricketing uncertainty caused by COVID-19, the Board was pleased to have been able to develop and launch the Foundational Plan and to have made significant progress across all of its strategic objectives, as well as in setting up an effective support environment. There is, of course, much more to be done, but we feel like we have come a long way since the start of 2020 as the summary of key achievements reflects.”
On the cricketing front, the Board was pleased to note:
- That the Men’s and Men’s Youth Zonal trials in 11 of 14 planned locations across 22 full days of cricket, with 600 participants had been safely completed, as had the additional Women & Girls Talent IDs across 4 locations;
- The completion of the recruitment processes for the Men’s and Women’s Youth Coaches, and the appointment of the Men’s Youth National Selection Panel and six Zonal Selection Panels, details of which can be found here.
- The finalization and publication of the first ever USAC Anti-Doping Code and Regulations Governing the Approval of Domestic Cricket, details of which can be found here.
- That work was underway to determine an appropriate domestic youth tournament structure for 2021.
Chair of the Cricket Committee, Sushil Nadkarni gave more details on the upcoming player selection processes, “The six Zonal Selection Panels will now convene to select Men’s and Men’s Youth Zonal training groups, as well as to review and add to the Men’s and Women’s National training groups where appropriate. This will enable the respective coaching staff, including the Men’s Head Coach, Jak Arunkumar, who has now successfully relocated to the United States, to prepare the groups for the comprehensive domestic and international calendar that lies ahead in 2021 and which will be announced more fully in due course. We anticipate that these selections will be announced early in the New Year but we also want to assure all players that the doors to Zonal and National team selection remain open and that further opportunities will be found during 2021 for those who, for one reason or another, did not have an opportunity to demonstrate their talent.”
The development of an Entry Level Program to increase participation and grow engagement
The Board was especially pleased to receive a report from the Development Committee that it was working with an external consultant, Alacria, to assist in the design, marketing and commercialization of a USA Cricket Entry Level Program (ELP) for roll-out across schools, clubs and communities in 2021. Alacria has significant experience within cricket and other sports in the creation of world-class sports participation programs. It will consult widely with cricket stakeholders and includes local expertise to ensure that the ELP, which will be based on the earlier ‘Rookie League’ work, will be as effective as possible and reflect the challenges and opportunities of the United States’ market.
Chair of the Development Committee, Venu Pisike, explained, “In order to achieve our vision of making cricket a mainstream sport in the USA, one of the biggest priorities is to develop an ELP that puts bats and balls into the hands of boys and girls at an early age. Whilst there is a lot of youth cricket already played across the USA, much of this is hardball cricket played mainly by boys and within private Academy structures. We are looking forward to completing the design and delivery of a program that will provide both boys and girls with a fun, enjoyable and accessible entry point to the sport at an earlier age that will increase participation levels and grow future engagement levels with the sport.”
The Board also noted that planning work was underway to consider how best to engage with the large softball community in the USA, and that it hoped to be able to conduct a National softball tournament at some point in 2021.
The Board noted that COVID-19 had resulted in reduced revenues and expenses throughout 2020, but that USA Cricket was forecasting a significant improvement in its financial position as a result of prudent steps taken during the year. This improvement provides the opportunity for USA Cricket to invest in a targeted and sustainable manner in 2021 in line with the priorities set out in the Foundational Plan.
The Board also noted that a commercial rights audit, valuation and development of a sales strategy was underway and that USA Cricket was hoping to add additional income streams in 2021.
Membership portal launch and upcoming elections
As previously indicated here, the Board noted that the membership portal launch was likely to take place in the first week of January and that a phased roll out would follow thereafter, leading straight into the delayed Board elections.
It noted that the design and launch of this project had been delayed, partly due to unforeseen personal challenges experienced by several key staff and project team members. In the circumstances, the Board agreed to a revised package of membership benefits which, for those who join, will be extended until the end of the 2021 calendar year and will have as its single focus the objective of onboarding as many members of all categories as possible. Full details of these benefits will be released imminently.
After the meeting, USA Cricket Chairman, Paraag Marathe, expressed his view that the final quarter of the year had been incredibly productive. “After a challenging first half of the year, we have been able to make great progress on key issues for which USA Cricket is responsible, as well as providing support to the activities of our commercial partner, ACE, including the launch of Minor League Cricket, securing of the first Major League Cricket venue at Grand Prairie, Texas and the exciting partnership with Kolkata Knight Riders. Developments of this nature, alongside the launch of our Foundational Plan and recent efforts to develop a nationwide Entry Level Program for schools, serve to underline the progress that is being made towards our twin vision of becoming a Full Member of the ICC and making cricket a mainstream sport in the United States. Of course, we are delighted to be able to round out the year with the fantastic announcement that we will be hosting both the ICC’s Women’s T20 World Cup Regional Qualifier and Men’s U-19 World Cup Regional Qualifier in 2021.
On behalf of the Board and all associated with USA Cricket, we would like to wish the cricketing community a safe and healthy holiday period and we look forward to continuing the journey with you in the New Year.”