By Orin Davidson
Sri Lanka and New Zealand played to an historic 1-1 series draw which amidst enthusiastic crowds, launched the first ever international series staged in the United States last weekend. In the process the United States national team’s three-match competition against Jamaica revealed the team still has a long way to go to attain acceptable levels of play worldwide. They lost the solitary 50 overs and both twenty20 games by wide margins at the Lauderhill stadium in Florida. The team was without a number of its regular players and the replacements left a lot to be desired against a strong Jamaica lineup. The batting, bowling and fielding were poor in equal measure as star players Lennox Cush, Steve Massiah, Carl Wright , Orlando Baker and Aditya Thayagaranjan were made to struggle for the most part.
The team is now in Bermuda where it is on the verge of losing the ICC Americas title, having been thrashed by Canada in the game which is expected to determine this year’s championship winner.
Without top bowlers Kevin Darlington and Sudesh Dhaniram and Usman Shuja, the U.S. attack was made mincemeat of by a much improved Canada lineup.
The absences of those players due to time off and injury issues exposes no depth in for this U.S. national team.
Also against,Jamaica, considered the best team from the once great but now abject West Indies regional squad, yet the visitors were hardly made to break a sweat in sweeping the United States 3-0 in their 3-0 sweep over America.
Although the U.S, recently competed in two international tournaments in the United Arab Emirates and Nepal, and the fact that the domestic leagues have started in the northern regions, the batsmen were made to look out of touch and awkward against Jamaica in much the same way they struggled in the Twenty20 World Cup qualifiers and to a lesser extent at the ICC Division Four championship in February.
The reasons are obvious- United States playing standard is several notches below that of the world’s recognizable teams and unless the national ruling body acts fast, we will continue to struggle for a while yet.
USACA can begin by examining and restructuring its domestic competitions to improve play among the regions and clubs from which the national team members are selected.
There is way too much fragmentation in the current structures from New York to California which comprises a ton of different leagues that yield putrid competition.
New York, alone has seven leagues that comprise close to 100 teams who play every weekend of the summer, yet it produces the same low standard of play year after year. The same situation presents itself in Florida, Texas, California, New Jersey and Atlanta.
Nothing is wrong with a high level of participation of players in competition, but if one expects the current prevailing system to improve competitors and teams, we are living a pipe dream.
USACA needs quality than quantity more than ever now in competition if its ambitious development plan is to achieve its goals.
Combining the country’s best talent in groups representing teams will boost the playing levels and USACA can start with the national regional championship. By expanding it to a two –round, round robin home and away series among the eight teams will offer players greater exposure to the highest level of possible competition in the country. At the same time the national body has to ensure that the best possible players from the various leagues represent the various regions.
In so doing,the top players from the country will compete at a higher level and bring out the best in each other . Yet this change can only be realized with substantial funding of which USACA is sorely lacking presently. Tuft pitches for the playing venues and specialist technical personnel for the teams will add to the expenditure required to derive the full benefits But it is a plan USACA must prepare for, as soon the money will be flowing.
The just concluded Sri Lanka/New Zealand T20 series in Florida was televised by ESPN and had good attendance. Also the national team is moving up the ICC rankings that could lead to maximum associate member funding of more than a million dollars annually from the world ruling body.
The ball is squarely in USACA’s court from now onwards.