Interview with Jamie Harrison, CEO-American Cricket – Part OneGaneshbabu Venkat |
Cricket has always been an exercise in futility in the USA. However the emergence of American Cricket Federation (ACF) and ACF’s popularity has brought some much needed enthusiasm and hope that there is indeed a place for cricket in the US sporting landscape. ACF is a recognized governing body for cricket in the United States and they have applied to the ICC for recognition. Cricket web caught up with ACF’s CEO Jamie Harrison, Here is part one of the interview, in which he talks about how he got in to the game, differences between USACA and ACF, cricket opportunities in America and elaborates on the he ACF’s request to ICC.
CW: Let me start off by asking you how you got into cricket?
JH: I was a history teacher in Baltimore, Maryland which is near Washington D.C and I was taking my class on a field trip to a civil war site. Cricket was being demonstrated there as an artifact of American history and we got a chance to sample it, the kids fell in love with it. They asked me to be the moderator of their new cricket club and in a year’s time they went from knowing nothing about cricket to being padded up and playing hard ball cricket against an experienced team of kids from India and Pakistan from the Washington D.C area. That’s how we learned cricket together and that’s how I got into the game.
CW: What is basically the difference between the United States Cricket Association (USACA), which is the ICC, recognized governing body for cricket in the United States and the American Cricket Federation (ACF)?
JH: We are both governing bodies for cricket in the US at this point. ACF has more member leagues and more players affiliated than USACA. We both are attempting to do the same thing which is to grow cricket in the US. USACA has just been famously unsuccessful at that. I would say we have no debt; we have a trail of success behind us. We have people who are selfless volunteers just looking out for the best of cricket instead of trying to promote themselves and their personal agenda.
Our focus is domestic cricket. We see building domestic cricket through building our leagues in the US as being a key to the long term growth and health of the game. We are not distracted by the scramble for funds involved in international cricket and all of the politics and the cronyism involved with putting together teams for international tours. We are focused on building our member leagues and building domestic cricket. What we believe is that when we build domestic cricket that will ultimately create a stronger national side. Every country in the world, if you look at the success of their national side you could trace it back and see the health of their domestic cricket program. So we are focused on the foundation, building cricket in the US from the bottom up.
CW: What real playing opportunities do you see for cricket in the US at some level other than the Sunday leagues and the occasional exhibition/ international game?
JH: Cricket in the US has always existed without context, where every league is played in a vacuum without having any contact with other leagues. So every league was a world unto itself and there was no way to have the argument as to who is the best cricketer in America. You could never have that argument because the guys never played each other and never competed on the same field against each other. One thing ACF is determined to change is that entire structure – we are creating the system where our leagues will compete against each other at the highest levels during the spring and summer season and then the six best leagues will compete for the national title and then whoever wins the national title will get to compete against the Canadians the following March in Arizona. It gives the cricket season a structure and a purpose and also gives us a way to measure our growth and our results. Once we have this league going, it would be possible to have an argument over who is the best bowler because you will be able to see them competing against each other on the same field. It will be possible to say which the best league is.
We are going to working really work hard with the media, the local and national bodies to elevate the game. We are going to work to turn the local Massachusetts team into the Boston Red Sox of cricket and the New York team into the Yankees of cricket. We are going to work toward making these guys local cricket heroes in their communities and we are going to make them household names in national cricket so that we can find out who are the best players, instead of having a one day camp to pick our international side. This will give us an entire season of statistics to base selections. We have never had that in American cricket and we are hoping that by raising American cricket to a whole new level, we can elevate the players and elevate the game, and give us some objective ways to measure progress.
CW: Where do you think USACA has failed American cricket?
USACA has been in-charge of cricket in the United States as an associate member of the ICC for 50 years. Today we have fallen so far off the radar that nobody even talks about USA as a serious associate nation anymore. You look at the teams that have leapfrogged the United States, Ireland is at the cusp of being a Test nation; Afghanistan is playing very credible cricket against very good sides. Whereas the US has gone backwards in the past 50 years, not forward, and this is an indictment of the entire process and leadership that we have had over that period. There has to be accountability. If you are in-charge of something for 50 years, at some point there has to be a day when you are held accountable for the end result and 50 years later the end result is that US cricket on an international level is a train wreck, and at a domestic level hasn’t progressed at all. So the ACF is now ready to assume the mantle and to make a change.
CW: Most recently ACF submitted a bid to ICC. Can you please elaborate on that point a little bit?
I will elaborate on what we did since there has been some confusion on this point. We didn’t ask the ICC to name us national governing body. All we asked the ICC to do was to recognize that we existed as a governing body. We submitted letters from our leagues, which are former USACA leagues, to testify that they have left USACA, and now recognize ACF as their governing body. All we want the ICC to do is to acknowledge the obvious which is that ACF exists as a governing body in the US.
f ICC does that and they apply their own existing rules and apply the precedent they did most recently for Swiss cricket, it’s inevitable that the United States is going to be suspended from the ICC because US cricket then won’t have one governing body. We see that as an unpleasant but necessary step on the way to the reorganization of US cricket. ICC has acknowledged our request, they let us know that they are aware of our member leagues and they are currently examining the situation. I don’t suspect they are going to give us any communication until they are ready to make some kind of a public declaration.