To the USA cricket community,

It’s impossible not to reflect on how life has been so drastically impacted all around the world in the past couple of months as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.  This is especially the case here in the United States, and, first and foremost, I hope that you and your families are as safe and healthy as you can be given the unprecedented circumstances we have been confronted with.  

I know that many of the cities and regions where our cricket communities are at their strongest, such as New York and New Jersey, are among the areas that have been hardest hit, and I have no doubt that some of you will have already experienced pain, suffering and economic hardship related to the disease.  

That pain and hardship provides some important perspective to our natural desire to pursue the return of social and competitive cricket in this country as quickly as possible.  Some things are simply more important.  And whilst there is no doubt that cricket will eventually return to play a powerful role in engaging, inspiring and uniting people and communities once again, we must be guided in developing those plans by caution, compassion and our overarching social responsibility.  

USA Cricket urges the entire cricket community to continue responding to this crisis by practicing social distancing, looking after yourself and your families and being kind to all around you.  We are working with our colleagues across the country and around the world to try and figure out how and when cricket can safely return and we will be ready with our revised plans, calendars and protocols when that moment arrives.  

I’ve separated the rest of this blog into two parts: firstly USA Cricket’s response to the COVID-19 crisis in a bit more detail; and secondly some additional newsworthy updates to report on. 

COVID-19 Updates

  • Postponement of CWC League 2 Series in Florida: As you will have seen from the media release last month, the CWC League 2 Tri-Series that was scheduled to be played earlier this month in Fort Lauderdale was postponed. We worked with the ICC, Cricket Scotland and the Emirates Cricket Board to ensure that this decision was taken as far in advance as possible and we look forward to hosting both countries when suitable dates can be arranged in the future.
  • Postponement of domestic cricket in the USA: The night before that media release went public, we held an emergency USA Cricket Board meeting to discuss how best to deal with the impact of the impending crisis at a domestic level. The board took immediate steps to postpone all domestic cricket, events and programs that were scheduled to be held in March and April, including the Women’s and Girl’s Talent Identification events, as well as the Men’s and U17 Boy’s zonal competition/trials. Having postponed the Men’s zonal competition/trials in April, it follows that USA Cricket’s Men’s National Final series in May will also be postponed.  Further announcements about USA Cricket’s planned zonal and national trials/competitions for Women and Girls now, of course, remain under review.
  • International cricket for the Men’s and Women’s national teams:  A couple of days ago, it was announced that the planned Quadrangular series for the Men’s team in Holland, involving Holland, Oman, Namibia and the USA would no longer be taking place in June (more from the KNCB on that here). We are now awaiting decisions from the ICC on whether the ICC Women’s World Cup Qualifier (July in Sri Lanka) and the Men’s T20 World Cup Regional Final – Americas (August in Canada) will be going ahead as planned. At the time of writing, those events remain scheduled but under careful review but we should prepare ourselves for the prospect that they might also suffer a similar fate.
  • Scenario planning for the remainder for the 2020 calendar year:  Obviously it is important for all of our national teams and our planned domestic events that we are as well prepared as possible for the return of cricket as and when that happens.  It doesn’t seem long ago that we were announcing the launch of Minor League Cricket and the return of senior and junior Zonal and National competitions.  Sadly, we have to accept that it is now quite possible that those events (and others within the previously planned calendar) will not take place in the manner in which they were originally intended. However, we do have some flexibility within our plans and we are working with our colleagues at ACE/Major League Cricket to consider together various scenarios for the remainder of the 2020 calendar year.  USA Cricket is also facilitating a series of conference calls with League representatives next week in order to allow them to share with each other their own local experiences, challenges and plans.  Hopefully the sharing of knowledge and ideas in this way will result in the development of some collectively supported domestic guidelines for cricket teams and clubs across the country.
  • National Squads: Over the last few weeks, we have been engaging with our Men’s and Women’s Squads through our newly created online athlete management system.  Many of those players have, obviously, been extremely limited in their ability to physically train during this period, so this has been more about ensuring that they are safe, healthy and connected.  In light of the changes to the playing calendar and the various social restrictions that have been imposed, the contracted players in the Men’s National Squad were recently placed on reduced retainer agreements.  However, we are doing everything we can to retain and support them, including through the application of a PPP Loan under the U.S. Government Stimulus Bill, through until the end of their contracts on 22 July.  In the meantime, we are starting to review the existing playing contracts and processes around them and how best to structure the model moving forward to ensure that we have the right balance of investment and incentivization to drive improved performance.

Other Updates

There are plenty of other areas to update on in what has been a very busy first few months of the year for USA Cricket:

International cricketing matters 

There is no hiding from the poor performances of the Men’s National Team on its tour of India and Nepal at the start of the year, which were a deep disappointment for everyone.  

As part of our post-tour reflection, we felt it was important to make sure that we had a better knowledge of the playing talent available so that the selectors had more options and combinations available for consideration in the selection of future Men’s National Teams.  To that end, we held a successful emerging players camp at the Prairie View Cricket Complex just outside of Houston in early March.

The inability to identify, track and support future talent across the country has been an obvious area of weakness in our system in recent times.  With no central monitoring system, no zonal and national competitions, and no extended training squads or tours over the past few years, it has been difficult to look too far outside of the currently contracted players to identify where the next break-through player is likely to come from.  And that weakness is naturally compounded in times when no domestic cricket is played, whether over the recent winter season and now during the Covid-19 crisis.

The provision of programs and support to extended groups of players outside of the currently selected national teams, has been an area that our new Cricket Operations Director and Selection Panels have been working to address on over the past few months through various initiatives.  We have recently established an online athlete management system and we hope that with what remains of the domestic season in 2020 we will be able to implement some of the planned domestic activities so that we can better assess the existing talent levels in this country and provide selectors with the biggest possible pool of talent to select from for future international series.

The planned activities of the Women’s National Team have also been curtailed by the COVID crisis.  It had been our intent to select an extended national squad following the conclusion of our Talent Identification Events, and to use the months of April through until June to prepare for and play competitive international and domestic fixtures ahead of the  ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup Qualifier in Sri Lanka in July.  Unfortunately, we have not been able to stage the final four talent ID events in North Carolina, Dallas, San Francisco and Seattle, but we are committed to the importance of those events and will continue and complete that process as an immediate priority once it is safe to do so.

We were also proud to be part of a fantastic initiative back in February as we supported the involvement of our Women’s National Team Captain, Sindhu Sriharsha and one of the squad’s younger talents, Geetika Kodali, in the FairBreak Global XI tour in Australia.  The highlight of the tour was the match against a first ever Bradman Women’s XI at the historic Bowral ground, which you can watch here, and where Sindhu, in particular, impressed as the FairBreak XI came up just short in an entertaining game.

Finally, it is worth highlighting that both the Men’s and Women’s National Teams have now had new Selection Panels appointed.  We were overwhelmed with applications and are extremely lucky to have a large pool of qualified applicants to choose from as we put in place a Women’s Selection Panel and a Men’s Selection Panel. We look forward to establishing supporting processes, policies and systems that will allow these Selectors, under the leadership of their respective Chairperson, to have the best possible environment around them in order to make great selection decisions.

A growing administration 

  • Cricket Operations Director

Following the conclusion of a lengthy process that attracted many impressive candidates from all over the world, I am pleased to be able to announce the hiring of Richard Done as USA Cricket’s full-time Cricket Operations Director. Richard comes to USA Cricket after more than 15 years in post with the ICC, where he served as its High Performance Manager.  For us to achieve our objective of improving the performances of our national teams, we need to put in place better cricketing structures, support systems and staff, and Richard’s experience and expertise in exactly these areas is vast. 

He has been instrumental in the development (both on and off-the-field) of ICC’s leading Associate Member nations for many years, including working closely with Ireland and Afghanistan on their respective journeys towards Full Membership of the ICC, and we hope that he can bring some of that learning to the United States as we forge our own path towards competitive national teams and attaining Full Member status.       

  • Development Manager

We are also delighted to be able to announce that Jamie Lloyd has joined USA Cricket as its first-ever Development Manager.  Many of you will already know Jamie, as he has been around the USA cricket community since 2012 in various capacities, including in USA-focused roles with CricHQ, Dream XI and, recently, as the USA Men’s Performance and Video Analyst. 

Jamie is especially passionate about the development of cricket at grassroots level and has played a huge role in developing the USA Cricket ‘Rookie League’ cricket resources for USA Cricket.  The role brings him back closer to where his cricket career began, as a Director of Sport at a High School in New Zealand and then, for more than three years, with Auckland Cricket as the manager of a team delivering cricket development programs and clinics across schools and communities.  

  • Cricket Operations Manager 

In light of COVID-19 and its impact on the international and domestic cricketing calendar, we have decided not to press ahead with the recruitment of this position at this stage.  We have some fantastic candidates shortlisted and interviewed, but as the future calendar becomes clearer we will keep under review our immediate staffing needs and how they can be aligned with ACE/Major League Cricket to ensure maximum efficiency, particularly in the area of cricket operations.  

  • Youth Coordinators

On the youth front, we received a fantastic response to our advertisement for National Youth Coordinators across our various zones. Thank you to everyone who has given us their time and interest so far and we are now very close to being able to announce the appointment of more than 20 people into these positions across the country and we look forward to working with all of you.  

  • Men’s National Team Coach 

As previously reported, following an exhaustive recruitment process, former first class Ranji Trophy and IPL player and coach, J Arunkumar, had been identified as the preferred candidate for the next Men’s Head Coach.  He travelled to the USA to meet support staff, selectors and players at the Talent Camp in Houston and to continue those discussions with us.  I’m delighted to say that we have subsequently reached agreement with ‘Jak’ that he will take up the role and be permanently based in the United States as and when his working visa has been obtained.  Of course, the COVID-19 crisis has now presented some challenges around the scope of the role in the short/medium term, but we look forward to completing all of the arrangements and to welcoming him more formally in due course.

Other matters 

There are also a few other matters I would like to give some briefer updates on;

  • Hosting major events in the USA:  As you may have seen reported in the media, we have been working closely with our colleagues at Cricket West Indies to seek the awarding of the right to host some major ICC events in the 2023-2031 cycle, including a Men’s and Women’s World T20 World Cup.  For now, we have submitted a joint expression of interest to the ICC with CWI in hosting a number of those events and we will be responding more formally to the ICC’s request for proposals as the next step in the process.  I continue to believe that if the ICC and its Members want to grow the level of engagement with the sport around the world (and particularly in non-traditional cricketing markets), then the most significant step it could take would be to allocate some of its major events to the USA in the next rights cycle so that the we can engage with the millions of cricket fans that already exist in this country and start to bring the sport into the mainstream sporting narrative in this country.  We are forging a great partnership with CWI and look forward to working closely with them and the ICC over the coming months on this exciting proposition.   

  • Membership of USA Cricket: Over recent months, I have spent a lot of time engaging with Leagues all around the country trying to get a better understanding of what USA Cricket needs to do to best support all of them and their Clubs and Players.  It has been an incredibly enlightening process and I’m delighted to report that we have been able to secure formal commitments from over thirty Leagues representing more than 13,000 individual players to be part of USA Cricket moving forward.  I also have extremely constructive dialogue with another twenty Leagues or more, which I hope will also enter into similar formal commitments with the next month or two.  Having established that positive momentum, we are now entering into a process to appoint a technology provider who can develop a central registration portal around which our membership and other technology needs of the Leagues and others can be based.  The lessons have been learned from previous membership initiatives and I’m extremely optimistic that within the next few months we will have been able to reestablish a strong membership program for USA Cricket and a deep membership base.  You can expect to see more announcements on this front very soon.
  • Umpire and coach registration: We have also received several hundred applications from individuals across the country as part of our nationwide registration process for all umpires and coaches.  USA Cricket recognizes that it has a duty to ensure that there are suitable umpiring and coaching programs, pathways and opportunities available to encourage and support not only the umpires and coaches themselves but also all the domestic cricket that is played in this country.  The starting point is to try and better understand what the current landscape looks like, and this registration process has helped us enormously in that regard.  Over the coming weeks, we will be talking to various stakeholders with relevant interest and experience, before determining how USA Cricket is going to address these issues.

  • Annual Report: We published our first ever USA Cricket Annual Report on the same day as our AGM in New York City. If you haven’t had a chance yet to have a look at the publication, please see it here as there’s plenty of really good information and reference points for all the progress from what was a historic year in 2019.  This year’s AGM will be held in December 2020 and further details about that will be announced nearer the time.  In response to questions about why the 2019 Annual Report did not contain any financial information, the answer is that such information had not by then been reviewed by our auditors and was therefore not ready for publication.  Our 2019 audit is underway and we will publish what we are legally required to publish as and when once those accounts have been fully audited.

As always, please do provide any feedback, or raise any questions or subject matter that you would like me to address in future editions through in the following way: please send your thoughts via either a) The ‘Contact Us’ Page of the USA Cricket website, with the subject “Straight Bat Blog” https://www.usacricket.org/contact/ or b) via our Facebook page through the ‘Send Message’ function.

I wish you all the best in your individual efforts to manage through these difficult times.  

With best wishes, 

Iain Higgins

USA Cricket CEO

#WeAreUSACricket