By Orin Davidson
Months of backbreaking work almost went up in smoke as the second staging of the US Cricket Open competition was only hours from being canceled before the first ball was bowled.
The sanctioning hiccup that nearly torpedoed the biggest Twenty20 competition in the United States nevertheless came close to being crippled as the long list of star West Indies players were all debarred from competing.
Jeff Miller, tournament director and Vice President – Operations of Cricket Council USA, which owns the US Cricket Open, at one stage feared not would’ve been bowled.
He said they were required to pay a sanctioning fee the day before the first day ball was to be bowled which proved to be a nightmare to handle.
By that time all the stars had arrived in Florida and were raring to go.
It was supposed to be a return showdown among the players who featured prominently in the West Indies Twenty20 championship a few months prior.
Darren Ganga, William Perkins, Dave Mohamed, Lendll Simmons, along with Guyana super star Lennox Cush were joining forces with Bedessee New York Destroyers in a quest to bolster the team’s chances for a first US Cricket Open title win. Their counterparts Dinesh Ramdin, Sherwin Ganga, Navin Stewart, along with Jamaica big names Danza Hyatt and Krishmar Santokie were to strengthen a newly formed Bedessee Florida Destroyers.
And the biggest name of them all Ramnaresh Sarwan, Guyana’s best limited overs batsman and his West Indies teammate Narsingh Deonarine were down to do battle for United Chargers which was fielding a virtual All Star United States national team as the great majority of names were plucked from the side that is on its way to attaining Division One status in the ICC Associate league.
And when you add Wavell Hinds and Brenton Parchment, two current Jamaican and former West Indies players who were to appear for Caribbean Stars, the number of mouth watering clashes, set to explode in the Central Broward Regional Park Stadium and Brian Piccolo Park, created intense excitement among the United States fan base.
Indian national team sensations brothers Yusuf Pathan and Irfan Pathan were also down to represent Boom Boom CFCA Royals, but by the time they were forced to withdraw due to commitments at home, the demand for a $15,000 sanctioning fee by the United States of America Cricket Association, made one day before the action got going, extinguished the luster for the series. As a result the competition lost the West Indian stars also, who were threatened with bannings if they played in a non-sanctioned event, by none other than the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB).
Also, the confused United States national players, most of who were reluctant to play, because of being unsure about the implications, had to be persuaded to take the field by their respective club officials.
Those US players saved the competition when they decided to trust the judgement of their clubs and play, at the very last minute
For all its mouthings about support for United States cricket over the years, the Julian Hunte-led WICB administration showed that it is only willing to support entities that it was closely associated with, within the country.
And surely that cuddly relationship does not exist with Cricket Council USA, because its demand for the players to play only if the US Cricket Open was officially endorsed by USACA, rings hollow.
The WICB’s concern for the players’ welfare does not pass the litmus test because none of the players down to play in the competition are contracted to the Board.
Not Sarwan, not Deonarine, nor any of the others.
So the WICB’s action boggles the mind because if its desire for development of US cricket was authentic, it would’ve not put a spoke in the wheel of the biggest ever competition in the country.
Moreso when those said players and many others have played over the years in this country in non USACA games without being penalized..
The big two-day exhibition series between the Brian Lara-led West Indies team and the USA All Stars in 2007 at Floyd Bennett Park, readily comes to mind.
For its part USACA allowed itself to be bullied by the WICB and could’ve been more lenient with CCUSA in a situation where no previous competition in the entire America needed sanctioning.
Moreso as Miller stated, he had written USACA since July indicating CCUSA’s intention to stage the competition and about necessary inputs it had to make.
If USACA had the best interests of cricket outside of its domain at heart in situations such as this one, it could’ve let the $15,000 fee slide and give sanction, and gradually implement its fee requirement for future competitions.
President Gladstone Dainty admitted that CCUSA was made aware of the fee required on the said day before the start of competition, and pointed out they were willing to listen to negotiations for a reduction.
But in the last- minute crush and confusion, how could one expect a one-man organizing show in Miller, have time to attend to mounting issues all at once.
As a result United States cricket suffered a big blow that could dent the enthusiasm of players and fans alike at a crucial time in the popularising of the, sport in the world’s biggest sports market.
The Steve Massiah led Chargers went on to win the competition, but it could’ve been a much more satisfying triumph with all the teams being at full strength, had better sense prevailed.