By Jamie Harrison
To paraphrase Dickens, what I am about to say must be distinctly understood or nothing good can come from the story I am about to relate:

Jamie Harrison.

USACA is not unlucky.

The fiasco that unfolded this weekend at Lauderhill was the direct result of choices and systemic failures that have long come to typify the actions of the ICC-recognized body in the United States.

The series of events that reached their fascinating climax when Gladstone Dainty declared at the Central Broward Regional Park that USACA had no time to look after domestic cricket in America were, like so many toxic dominoes, set in motion many months ago.

Back in March, it was announced that Darren Beazley was resigning as CEO of USACA. In regard to this specific disaster, this was significant as Beazley had personally arranged for USACA to have its national tournament, after a three-year hiatus, at the new six million dollar World Sports Park in Indianapolis. ESPN also had agreed to televise the event, which was quite a coup.

At the time Beazley resigned, everything was on track and progressing nicely. In a universe of USACA dysfunction, the three-year contract with the City of Indianapolis seemed like a beacon of light; a promise of better things to come for USACA.

Of course, that’s when it all began to fall apart.

Rather than make immediate plans for a smooth transition in regard to what would be seen as USACA’s signature event, what seems to have occurred is – nothing. While the City of Indianapolis operated event websites and was busy promoting USACA’s championship, according to Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard’s office, the city went “months without adequate communication that was jeopardising the success of the tournament.”

Reassessing the prospects of a relationship with USACA, Indianapolis instead terminated the three-year contract with immediate effect. In doing so, USACA’s best hope to prove it had reformed itself was lost.

Going into damage control, USACA’s first reaction was to cast silly aspersions at Indianapolis, which forced the ICC into the odd position of making a statement that called the veracity of a member body into question and actually defended the city that had abandoned it.

Then, USACA announced that it had, in fact, improved upon the tournament location by moving it to South Florida, at a time of year when that region is historically subject to drenching rains and occasional hurricanes. USACA actually bragged about its rental of the Central Broward Regional Park, never once questioning why such a facility might still be available at the eleventh hour. Of course, locals knew better.

(At this point, one might be willing to give USACA the benefit of the doubt, as if they could possibly be unfamiliar with weather in Florida after fifty years in operation in the United States. To be fair, they haven’t been scheduling many domestic tournaments in recent years, and this could tend to make one more generous. After all, didn’t a USACA director say that enduring August rain in Florida was a “learning experience?” That is, until one learns that USACA is actually headquartered in South Florida. That’s right: South Florida is USACA’s home. And the director? He lives up the road in Tampa.)

At this point, what was already lining up to be a disaster of historic proportions became exponentially worse when trusting players, delighted to be selected to represent their regions, were asked to pay to attend the now relocated, and highly devalued, tournament. Many players came to the sad realization that they couldn’t afford to participate, and withdrew. In at least one region this triggered a power struggle between selectors, a well-connected league president and the regional chairman.

As if this ongoing circus wasn’t enough, at this point USACA shovelled even more chaos on the increasingly steaming pile by dismissing its national selectors, who the desperate players were depending on to get them picked for the upcoming ICC tournament. So, who would be choosing the team? The long-suffering victims of USACA’s foibles, now themselves paying to appear in Florida, had no idea.

This brings us to this weekend.

On Thursday, in perfect keeping with seasonal weather patterns, it rained. Heavily. On Friday, it rained again. On Saturday, it rained still more.

Teams of discouraged, frustrated players, now destitute of both treasure and opportunity, refused to play in matches and fled back to their hotels, perhaps hoping to put the entire nasty business finally behind them.

Meanwhile, USACA’s clueless leadership went through the motions of a presentation ceremony, being compelled to name the two remaining regions as meaningless co-champions. A small trophy was pictured being held by two captains, one of whom wore street clothes, as if he couldn’t wait to get into his car. Players scowled at the camera, while the USACA director beamed. The MVP and Best Batsman didn’t bother to hang around to collect their awards.

And then, in an unexpected coup de grace, the president of USACA took this opportunity to announce that USACA was simply too busy with its ICC obligations to bother with domestic cricket events. It was a fitting conclusion, emblematic of an organization completely out of touch with its constituency, and thoroughly unworthy of its responsibilities.

When all was said and done, luck had nothing to do with what happened this weekend in Lauderhill. And so once again I return to Dickens: “Men’s courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead.”

In this case, the deeds led exactly where any intelligent person would have expected – another USACA catastrophe.

This blog originally appeared on CricketEurope and is reproduced with permission. Previous entries can be read at: http://www.cricketeurope4.net/CRICKETEUROPE/ZONEARTICLES/COLUMNS/harrison.shtml

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