(12/17/99) AN INTERVIEW with USACA ex-President RICKY CRAIG
As of June 16, 2000, Mr. Craig resigned from the Presidency of the USACA after less that a year in office, and Mr. Kamran Khan, First Vice-President, became acting President of the USACA.
The interviewer, Mr. Ryan Naraine, had reported that he had been unable to reach Ricky Craig by phone or e-mail. CRICINFO'S efforts to reach him were unsuccessful for several months. There were unconfirmed rumours that Mr. Craig had been travelling abroad. Or, that he was suffering from a prolonged and serious illness.
We now have corroboration from several sources that upon Mr. Atul Rai's resignation as Secretary of the USACA, Craig had warned that any effort on the part of the USACA Board to re-instate Mr. Rai would go against his position--and when the USACA Board decided to go ahead anyway, Mr. Craig felt he had no option but to resign himself.
We are, however, continuing to print these excerpts from the interview conducted by RYAN NARAINE, e-mail address email@example.com. This 1999 interview is one of the few official statements by USACA on its plans for US cricket, and therefore possesses some archival significance.
Ryan Naraine: In your own words, how would you describe the state of cricket in the USA?
Ricky Craig: I think you've got to go back and look at the history of the game in this country. …. You must remember that cricket is only played in the USA on a recreational basis. …not …with intention or desire to go on to play at a professional level. We have to work hard to change that culture. The only way that is going to happen is if cricketers are compensated at levels comparable to other major professional sports….. It is up to us, the administrators, to bring the resources into the game to push the game forward so that it is feasible down the road for a living to be made by the players….
RN: One of the biggest problems the smaller sporting organisations face is securing funding. How does the USACA get its funding. What is the financial state of the Association?
RC: The funding traditionally has been from the ICC… We get less than US$80,000 per year (after deductions), which is clearly not sufficient. We got some other funds in 1996 as a result of…a three-year contract with TimeOut, giving them exclusive rights to be our negotiating agent for television rights and promoting international cricket in the USA…. the USACA received an advance of US$230,000 between 1996 and 1997. .. used primarily to prepare the USA team for the last ICC tournament in Malaysia.
In a word, the organisation is broke. No money is there to speak of. …
RN: I'm glad you mentioned the TimeOut contract because there is apparently pending litigation with that issue. There are reports that TimeOut has threatened to sue the ICC for allegedly blocking the playing of international cricket in the USA. Is the USACA involved in this threat of legal action?
RC: .. there is a letter from TimeOut to the ICC which essentially claims that the ICC and, in particular, its chairman Mr David Richards, acted to prevent international cricket teams from coming to the United States. As a result of that, TimeOut is claiming it was unable to promote the international game here, as per its contract...
The USACA had absolutely no hand in any of this. As a matter of fact, we were not an official recipient of that letter from TimeOut. So, TimeOut is acting on its own behalf and not on behalf of the USACA. We have no such issue with the ICC.
…This is an issue that needs to be sorted out between the ICC and TimeOut. My job is to make sure that we let the ICC know in no uncertain terms that this was not a storm of our creation... I've done precisely that in a response to a letter I received from the ICC Chairman Mr Jagmohan Dalmiya. So, I am not going to get drawn into a dispute between the ICC and TimeOut. This has absolutely nothing to do with us.
RN: Has that exclusive contract with TimeOut expired? What is the relationship today between the USACA and TimeOut?
RC: The contract expired on September 15, 1999. There is a three-year extension agreement which goes to the year 2002. There is some contention as to whether that agreement is valid. That is something we are working out with the attorneys…
RN: You've made it quite clear that the USACA is broke. Where do you go from here? How do you attract and secure adequate funding?
RC: We have got to become more savvy at what we do. There are a lot of corporate sources in the USA interested in sponsoring cricket. We have never approached them in a professional manner…. In the next few months, I'm hoping to secure funding from some corporate sources with whom I've had contact with over the years. We're looking at annual grants and annual sponsorship deals, which will allow us to execute the developmental funds. But, we have to get our own house in order. …
RN: At the USACA elections in August, there were reports of controversy regarding the use of the Association's constitution by a particular group. What was the problem at that meeting?
RC: As you know, I was an observer at that meeting. I was not a participant…. There was an attempt by the [USACA] Executive Committee to postpone the meeting until after the tournament between India 'A' and Australia 'A' which was held in Los Angeles, California. The majority of the membership at the meeting obviously did not go along with that, and there was a heated dispute between the Executive Committee and the Board. Finally, .. a compromise was reached where the elections would be held on that day in New York but the incumbents would stay in office for 30 days and the new executives would take over on October 1…But, that is history. That is all water under the bridge.
RN: What is your number one priority for the development of cricket in the USA? At the end of your two-year term, what do you want to hold up as the highlight of your term in office?
RC: For a start, I think we need to build a credible organisation…. I have already made steps in that direction by having long discussions with Pat Rousseau of the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) and the executives at the ICC. …. I am not naïve enough to think that a five-man executive and ten regional directors can effectively run cricket in the USA....There are more people involved in the administration of cricket in tiny Barbados, for example, than there is in the USA..
[Then,} We have got to place our emphasis on youth cricket. The sport cannot grow unless it is replenished. We have to encourage the teenagers and the young people to get involved in the game. So, one of my priorities would be youth cricket development…. I was pleased to see the Under-25 competition between New York and California last month. That was a positive thing …
RN: When you look at the other associate members like Bangladesh and Kenya, those countries have full-time cricket coaches. They have detailed programs in place for cricket development. It seems rather far-fetched that the USA can qualify for the World Cup without a proper system in place...
RC: I must say that I like the odds. At the end of the day, the game is played in the middle. I don't know of any team which has won a game from the pavilion. The fact of the matter is, from what I've seen, we have the talent. I saw the Under-25 tournament in Los Angeles and I must tell you, the talent is there. The real challenge is to harness that talent and channel it in the proper direction. Over the next few months, we have got to identify the best 40-50 cricketers of that age group in this country. We have to organise tournaments for them. We have to take them on tours, possible to the Caribbean where they come up against better opposition.
If you look at the Bangladesh and Scottish teams which took part in the last World Cup, I think you'd agree they are by no means more talented teams than what we have here in the USA. What they do have, as you say, are the coaches and the facilities. Well, we now have some wonderful facilities in Los Angeles. We certainly can go out and get the coaches…. The ICC has got to help us in that regard because the future of cricket is in America. If this is to be considered a truly global sport, it has got to make greater impression in the USA. If the ICC is really interested in globalising the sport, they have to invest in US cricket. There is no other way.
RN: Taking into consideration that the game is played primarily by immigrants here, US teams face a major problem with the ICC citizenship requirement. That means that US teams have been weakened because a lot of players do not have US citizenship. How does you plan to deal with this?
RC: The rules of the ICC competition [are] that there must be nine citizens among the final eleven players on the field. That is particularly onerous for countries like the USA [with its restrictive immigration policies]…. The ICC needs to take a second look at this issue... I will be making representations to bring down the citizenship requirement to about six players. That would be fair in my mind.
RN: The 2007 World Cup has been awarded to the West Indies. The WICB has made some mention of perhaps playing a few games in the USA and Canada. Have those discussions begun? Where does that stand as it relates to games to be played here?
RC: There are some technical issues there to be worked out but we have to bear in mind that 2007 is not too far away. It is not inconceivable to have Test match venues in Florida, Southern California by the year 2007….. But, there are a lot of technical things to be worked out. If they are going to put wickets down in the USA, those wickets have to be put down within the next 24 months since it takes about three years for a cricket wicket to settle. So, these are things that have to be looked at as a matter of urgency.
RN: You've been involved in the administration of cricket in the US before. Why should we believe Ricky Craig will turn this ship around? Are you optimistic about this term of office?
RC: Oh, very much so. I'm very thrilled about this executive body and the work ahead of us. It is going to be hard but I'm optimistic… We have only been in office for a few months. I think we will also require the support those people outside of the cricket administration that can lend a helping hand. ..I'm willing to work with everybody to get this thing fixed. I'm excited about this job and I look forward to the next two years. I'm willing to listen and I'm willing to work and learn.
RN: Lets look ahead ten years. In your mind, where is US cricket on the world stage?
RC: Ten years down the road, in my mind, the US is beating the West Indies at One-Day cricket on a consistent basis. Does it sound far-fetched? Yes. But, it is the same kind of reaction you would have gotten if you had said Sri Lanka would have been World Champions or if you had said that the US would have the best women's soccer team in the world. The reality is that America has consistently demonstrated that it can get the job done….
RN: There have been mutterings and dreams of a full-time cricket stadium for the longest while. Are you familiar with the talks and where is that headed?
RC: I've heard a lot of the talk but the problem is the investment. It is strictly an economic issue…there is little open space that can be devoted to sports…. If you build a facility, it has to be a multi-purpose facility. It should be able to accommodate soccer, cricket and some other sports as well so that you can schedule enough paying events to write off the cost of construction. So, that is the problem. I think it
will happen eventually. I have my own ideas as to where and how it can be done to incorporate it into existing facilities. We'll see what happens over the next few months.
RN: The historic US v Canada cricket match has not been played for about three years. Is this a financial issue too?
RC: I can unequivocally tell you that that game will be played next year. I've already spoken to Dr Jeff Edwards (President of the Canadian Cricket Association) and he agrees that we have to get that game played annually. The only thing is to set up a venue for next year. It will be restarted next year, no doubt about it.
Date Stamped: December 17 1999 1:00 pm