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Where Are The Incentives For America’s Best Young Players?

By Orin Davidson
Oct. 10th, 2008
At this time of the year when the brightness of the Autumn sun intensifies even as the temperature drops fast from cool to cold, it signals the end of the cricket season in the Northern Hemisphere.

Gregory Sewdial

Akeem Dodson

And as quickly as the temperature dips, cricketers are forced to contemplate the pros and cons from yet another season of loaded competition in New York and its environs.

Foremost among that group are the junior players who are left to prioritize between their undying love for the game and other pursuits that will influence the type of lives they will have in the future.

The booming interest in cricket particularly in the New York among youngsters is forcing administrators to provide greater opportunities for those players to satisfy their thirst for involvement. And also to chart a course to allow them to pursue probable full time careers in the sport once known as the “Gentleman’s Game”.

Ask any among the group comprising the crème de crème of players in America about playing at the highest level and you will get an unanimous yes.

Akeem Dodson made his ambitions know years ago, long before he became known as the country’s most accomplished junior batsman. Gregory Sewdial is also keen to earn a livelihood from cricket as are Andre Kirton and Abi Rajp.

These players and others of their ilk are as talented as the budding stars their age around the world.

The problem is United States cricket is not in a position to realize those ambitions presently.

With is Associate Member status, the country cannot compete on a regular basis in world competition to generate the type of money needed to pay players salaries.

The players nevertheless remain optimistic.

But the grave lack of financial resources in the national ruling body is reducing player-development to a crawl.

For this country’s cricket to fast-forward its development, it needs to expose its players in more ways than one.

These young players need to get off the matting pitches and play not only on turf types, but also in conditions that seam and swing and those strips that are slow and turning.

The United States team was exposed as being out of its league competing in European conditions where their last two World Cup qualifying competitions campaigns were torpedoed in seaming conditions.

In Jersey earlier this year, they finished fourth in the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) World Group Five competition.

Now, that is the lowest level of world limited overs competition, which in itself tells you how far way the team seems to be away from acquiring international limited overs status.

The previous World Cup qualifying competition in 2006 saw them being similarly humiliated in Ireland where the ball swung that made batting required a special skill.

It however, does not mean the team is woefully poor.

Bring those same teams they lost to in Jersey and Ireland to America on the matting pitches and you could bet your last buck, the Steve Massiah led squad would beat them all.

But now that it has happened for the second time, leaving America in the unenviable position of never ever qualifying for the world‘s most prestigious competition, the decision makers will know better how to overcome that type of daunting hurdle in the future.

Perhaps, had the selectors known better they could’ve sent an entire team of young players just out or currently in the junior ranks and they might’ve qualified for the next stage, in Jersey this year. Being young they would’ve been better equipped to adapt to the unfamiliar conditions, than 30 and over year old types that made up close to half of squad.

And it would’ve given those players like Dodson, Kirton, Dominic Audain and Rajp a greater incentive to stay in the game.

As the situation is, any day now you can expect to see or hear of all or some of the above mentioned four players fading away into sun set, now that their junior days are done.

They have nothing much to look forward to in the near future that could pave the way to a full time career in cricket.

With the senior team out almost before they started campaigning to qualify for the next World Cup in three years time, you have no incentive to feed these players.

Not even getting the chance to represent their Regions in the National Championship seems possible this year.

To date the national ruling body has made no final announcement on the status of the competition that is normally staged around this time of year.

Whether the United States of America Cricket Association is still having problems raising the finance to bring it off or convincing the teams to pay their way, is still anybody’s guess.

And what about the spanking new stadium in Broward County, Florida that was opened more than a year ago?

It has been reduced to more or less, a white elephant where United States players worth their salt, are concerned.

The national Under-19 and Under-15 competitions have come and gone without a ball been bowled at the stadium.

Playing at this new modern facility, complete with turf pitch was the least USACA could’ve done to keep young players interested.

Also, the national senior team would’ve had a chance to redeem itself with that wild card opportunity it got to compete in the West Indies Cricket Board’s 50 overs championships scheduled for the Broward County stadium this month.

But they say “when it rains it pours’ as those hopes came crashing down when the WICB postponed the series to another venue.

Now we hear it would be staged in either Guyana or Jamaica later this year.

In the meantime USACA would do well to compel the WICB to retain the American team’s place in the competition. And then pick a predominantly young team of its best talent for the Caribbean showdown.

It’s the best the national body could do to motivate its best young players for a little while longer.
Orin Davidson Column Homepage

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