USA dreams of successful year in 2010

Thu, Dec 17, 2009 9:56 AM

USA dreams of successful year in 2010
Cricket in the USA may have endured a difficult start to the century but Don Lockerbie is one man who believes exciting times are ahead for the sport in North America.

Lockerbie, who was appointed to his role as Chief Executive of USACA earlier this year, has developed a strategy that he hopes can spark major improvements to US cricket and take advantage of the exciting opportunities that exist in 2010 and beyond.

"We have put a business plan together that aims to professionalise the game. We are a country that has played the sport since 1706 and we are now in the 21st century and we have never been a professional side and never had a professional league," says Lockerbie.

"We have had moments of exciting play as an Associate country. We were pleased in 2004 to play in the ICC Champions Trophy, perhaps not shining at that event, but we qualified which at the time made us one of the top two Associates in the world.

"Having reached almost the peak of an amateur sport, my aim is to professionalise all of our programmes and try and gain some momentum for cricket in the United States at grassroots level, in youth cricket and school cricket. You have to have something to aspire to and we believe the professionalisation of the sport is somewhere to go."

While some have dubbed the USA, an ‘emerging market' for cricket, Lockerbie is very passionate about the fact the country can already demonstrate a great passion for the game.

"We have an estimated 15 million cricket fans in the United States and we have an estimated 200,000 people who play cricket on the weekends in public parks," says Lockerbie.

"If you actually add together the number of people who accessed the World Cup website in Canada and the USA, we had more hits than India, which means that North America is the highest grossing website audience in international cricket."

Lockerbie is quick to acknowledge that few of these supporters - many of whom are cricket-loving expatriates, as made famous by Joseph O'Neill, in his acclaimed novel ‘Netherland' - actively follow the US national team, but he hopes a string of good performances in a series of ICC events in 2010 can change that.

"I would argue that while we do have many cricket fans here, the majority would not know the name of my wicket-keeper, as they are all fans of their heritage country," says Lockerbie.

"Right now I would be very happy to be everybody's second favourite team and sooner or later we will work towards being their favourite team."

The USA will take part in the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup in New Zealand in January 2010, where it is placed in a tough group alongside South Africa, Australia and Ireland, whom it defeated at the qualifier in Canada in September 2009.

Its senior side then has a busy month in February, when it will participate in the ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier and the Pepsi ICC World Cricket League Division 5.

Not only are there exciting opportunities in 2010 on the field of play for the USA, but there are also many opportunities off it.

There is already growing interest in playing in the USA from the ICC's Full Members, as part of USACA'S ‘Destination USA' strategy, with the potential for matches to take place in Florida around the ICC World Twenty20 2010 which will be staged in the West Indies.

New Zealand Cricket has also been in strategic discussions with USACA around the formation of a strategic partnership that will cover a variety of activities ranging from the sharing of coaching and development resources, to the staging of international cricket matches involving New Zealand in the USA, and other joint commercial ventures.

There have been plenty of false dawns in US cricket before, but in 2010 it has the potential to set a platform for the successful evolution of the sport, and Lockerbie is quietly confident about his potential success in developing the game.

"It does take funding to do all of this and we are very small fish in a very big pond, perhaps even an ocean, of sport. But I would argue that most Americans would know cricket. They know a little bit about the game, but what we need to do is show it is an exciting game and a world game and that the United States has the potential to become a significant player," says Lockerbie.

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