Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Hello? Is Anyone There? Or, a rant about how I can’t get an interview with any American cricket representatives

Hello? Is Anyone There? Or, a rant about how I can’t get an interview with any American cricket representatives
Everywhere one turns these days, there is news of cricket in the air. All around the world more and more people play and follow the sport. Even in the United States, there are cricket clubs in the least likely of places.
I live in New Castle, Indiana … a small town (population about 15,000) where basketball is the game. In fact, our town’s claim to fame is that we have the world’s largest high school basketball gymnasium (it seats about 10,000). In fact, 18 of the 20 biggest high school basketball gyms in the world are in Indiana. Nearby Muncie, home to Ball State University and known as Middletown, USA since being the subject of a famous set of sociological studies in the first part of the 20th century, boasts two cricket clubs: The Muncie Cricket Club and the Ball State Cricket Club. There are cricket clubs and leagues all around, and before a lack of funding and interest scuppered the effort, the mayor of Indiana’s capitol, Indianapolis, hoped to build a world-class cricket ground.
About 10 hours away, in Pennsylvania, you will find the C. Christopher Morris Cricket Library and Collection, which bills itself as “the largest collection of cricket literature and memorabilia in the Western Hemisphere." Yes, you read that right: “The largest collection of cricket literature and memorabilia in the Western Hemisphere.”
One of the best all-rounders to ever play was John Barton King, a cricketer from Philadelphia who lived from 1873-1965.
The United States took part in the first-ever international cricket match, against Canada.
It is believed that some of George Washington’s soldiers played cricket at Valley Forge.
The Wikipedia entry for Cricket in the United States claims more than 30,000 people watch or play cricket every year in the United States. I would put that number higher.
The United States even has its own page on ESPN CricInfo (www.espncricinfo.com/usa/content/current/team/11.html)!
And yet. And yet.
Cricket is almost nowhere in the national sporting consciousness. Apologists have given various reasons for this, including the rise in popularity of baseball, and the fact that the International Cricket Council was initially open only to Commonwealth Countries. I myself have even toyed with the suggestion that it is because most people who do follow and play the sport here are of Asian extraction and so many Americans see it as an exotic or “foreign” sport.
While there may be elements of these in the historical explanation, they don’t serve in today’s world. I believe the plain and simple reason that more people don’t play and follow cricket is that they don’t know there is any such thing available in the United States. And the responsibility for this, I fear, must fall on the shoulders off the sport’s governing body, the United States of America Cricket Association.
I am not here to re-hash the problems and accusations that have flown around the USACA over recent years. You can get all you need to know about that by reading a few pieces on CricInfo, or by Googling “USA Cricket.” What I am here to say is that to get attention to your sport you need to seek it, and accept it.
I have spent some time trying to find a way to get in touch with someone connected with the United States cricket team, in order to preview our country’s upcoming appearance in the ICC T20 World Cup Qualifier Tournament, and to hopefully be able to keep people informed of our progress there. And yet when you go to the USACA Web site, it is nearly impossible to find any contact information for anyone. There is no media contact person listed. The contact information of various executives can be found, but those I have tried contacting have never responded to my requests for interviews with players or coaching staff. I have had to resort to contacting the ICC, where their very helpful media person is trying to get me through to someone in the US.
But it is not just the USACA. I have tried contacting the above-mentioned C. Christopher Morris Cricket Library and Collection at Haverford College in Pennsylvania for interviews and contacts as a blogger. I have tried to contact the people who run the International Festival of Cricket each year in Philadelphia. I have tried following the captain of our cricket team on Twitter. All I ever hear is, if you will pardon the rather tired and obvious pun, the proverbial crickets.
Therein lies the problem. Not the fact that I can’t get through to anyone. That is important only to me. It could be anyone. The problem is that someone interested in promoting the sport, and not asking for anything in return, is completely ignored. How many others have tried and failed to reach cricket “officials” in the United States and found themselves giving up and writing about Reality TV pseudo-celebrities, who make up for their lack of anything redeeming by at least being extremely available?
To promote cricket in the United States, we need to stop the good-old boys approach. We need to stop trying to keep it chuffing middle class, or assuming that Americans are too stupid or ADD to enjoy even a game of T20. We need to reach out to Joe Sixpack. We need to answer e-mails and phone calls from people interested in the sport. We need the sport and its governorship to be open.
People with whom I have discussed this issue invariably throw up their hands, and say something roughly along the lines of “we need to do it ourselves, and start anew outside the current structure.” Unfortunately, the current structure is the one recognized by the ICC, so that is a non-starter for me.
For me the answer comes down to this: USACA, answer my e-mails or phone calls. And the next person’s. And the next person’s. Don’t take it for granted that most Americans can’t handle cricket. Give up some control and power because, with a more popular and widespread sport, you will gain more of both.

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