In the last few months USACA (the board in control of cricket in the USA) has made significant strides to reassert the United States as a cricketing nation, with the potential to rise above its current rather lowly status. The US national team has begun to make some strides forward, while the decision to host two T20 matches between Sri Lanka and New Zealand at the nation’s first cricket stadium in Lauderhill, Florida, last month, generated much media coverage in the US, some of it quite positive.
Moreover, the media in cricketing countries have shown considerable interest, even curiosity, albeit often with a significant element of cynicism, about plans to expand the footprint of the sport in the homeland of baseball.
Meanwhile, the ICC has helped to promote the idea of America as land of endless cricketing potential (one of its favorite notions in recent years), with the production of a documentary film about cricket in America – available in full at this URL: http://www.nuview.tv/#/special/cricketusa/1/. And Lord’s is currently hosting an elaborate exhibition about cricket and baseball, for which the BBC has produced an interesting audio slide show.
A recent edition of Harsha Bogle’s Cricinfo podcast was devoted to cricket in the US, and includes an interview with Don Lockerbie, Chief Executive of USACA. You can download that podcast from the Cricinfo web site, or from this URL: http://www-personal.umich.edu/~mlmakin/Cricket/’The%20ICC%20should%20look%20at%20the%20USA%20for.mp3
And last, but by no means least, the BBC’s famous radio commentary program, Test Match Special (available streamed online live, all over the world whenever the coverage is of England home matches), devoted the Friday lunch interval during last month’s first Test Match between England and Bangladesh at Lord’s to a discussion of cricket in the US. The broadcast included coverage of the Lord’s exhibition, and interviews with: Mahela Jayawardene, who discusses his experiences in Florida; with the English cricketer Ian Pont, who has spent some time in the USA, and who once tried to win a contract with a baseball team; and, again, with Don Lockerbie. If you listen carefully to the discussions, you will hear, about twenty-four minutes into the recording of the broadcast, the BBC’s chief cricket correspondent (and former England and Leicestershire bowler) Jonathan Agnew read part of an email from MCA’s Information Director, although, alas, MCA did not get a mention on air (which was the intention when that email was sent). You can download the whole discussion here: http://www-personal.umich.edu/~mlmakin/Cricket/TMS-USA.mp3 (coverage of the lunch interval starts with Phil Tufnell talking about the band about to appear on the Lord’s outfield – only in England…).
Many of the initiatives currently underway seem promising, and the enthusiasm of Lockerbie is touching and will surely seem to many outside the USA “truly American” (optimistic, energetic, perhaps even a little naïve). However, anyone at the parched “grass roots” of American cricket is probably entitled to wonder about the benefits of some of these initiatives for the Saturday and Sunday cricketer, looking for better grounds and more local support, while the “trickle-down” effect of even the most successful of the initiatives will probably take a long time to reach youth cricket and America’s small number of cricket academies, which appear destined to remain, at least for the moment, obliged to fend for themselves.
However, it would be churlish in the extreme not to share the enthusiasm of USACA’s CEO, and it is surely a good thing that, for example, hundreds of thousands (perhaps millions?) of listeners to TMS in England and around the world heard something about cricket in Michigan, even if Agnew could not pronounce the name of the State correctly…