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To all the members of the cricket community in the United States,

In the first of what will be a regular series of monthly updates, I am writing to you, the cricket community within the United States via this, the Straight Bat Blog, that will be published in the first week of each month here on the USA Cricket website.

In July this year I had the great privilege of being appointed as the first Chief Executive of USA Cricket. I joined formally in August, and have since fully relocated to the United States.  Since then, I have been getting up to speed with the work already being undertaken by the USA Cricket board of directors, its committees and staff, as well as meeting with numerous stakeholders around the country in an effort to listen and learn as much as possible from you all.  I have been overwhelmed with the volume of well wishes, ideas and offers of assistance from all corners, all of which I am extremely grateful for and am carefully working through.

Commitment to more frequent communication 

This communication represents my first since joining USA Cricket and I want to start by emphasizing that I am committed to more frequent and open communication with you all as we begin the journey into a new era for USA Cricket.  

The development of an effective communications strategy is therefore one of our immediate priorities.  I plan to use the Straight Bat Blog to help to provide updates from USA Cricket, to highlight what is coming up within the cricketing communities around the United States and to address relevant questions or topics that have been the subject of discussion on social media.  With that in mind, please feel free at any time to provide any feedback and/or raise any questions or subject matter that you would like me to address in future editions either through a) The ‘Contact Us’ Page of the USA Cricket website, with the subject “Straight Bat Blog” or b) via our Facebook page through the ‘Send Message’ function.

Incredible opportunity for cricket in the United States 

Whilst there are some significant challenges ahead, I want to reiterate what we all know – that we have a wonderful opportunity to harness the passion, knowledge, fan-base and playing population that already exists in this country to grow and develop the sport together.  In so doing, we can create both a strong domestic structure, and high performing international teams that will allow us to compete on a global stage with many traditional cricket playing countries. It is that huge opportunity which attracted me to the role, and I feel humbled to have been given the chance to help shape the direction of this journey at such an exciting and pivotal moment for the future of cricket in the USA. 

International cricketing matters 

We were delighted to successfully host our first ever One Day Internationals to be played on American soil, with the first triangular ODI Series, as part of ICC Cricket World Cup League 2, in Fort Lauderdale.  On the pitch we were pleased with our return of 3 wins from 4 matches, against Namibia and Papua New Guinea.

We have taken a good first step towards finishing in the top three teams in that league, which would gain us automatic qualification to the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup Qualifier in 2022, but there is a lot of competitive cricket to be played in this league, and our players and coaching staff are working hard to continue to drive better individual and collective performances.  

USA Cricket would like to thank everyone involved in making the ODI series possible, including the volunteers, umpires, scorers and all of the various staff members at Central Broward Regional Park.  We recognize that there were some challenges around the scheduling of these matches, and we will strive to schedule future ODIs in a more effective way. However, we were delighted to be able to bring you a live stream of every ball of the series with thanks to our partners at CricClubs.

The CWC League 2 schedule sees 36 x ODIs for USA over 2.5 years

We also need to be honest about the results of our national teams during the earlier part of the summer. Unfortunately, our Under 19’s boys’ side missed out on qualification for the ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup after a tight-fought loss to a strong Canada Under 19’s side; whilst the men failed to qualify for the Men’s T20 World Cup Global Qualifier after suffering defeats to Canada and Bermuda in the regional qualifier event.  Much has already been said about that particular performance and the reasons behind it. However, as an organization we have acknowledged that there is a lot to learn from that experience and we remain committed to putting in place a well-structured high-performance environment in which the national team players can flourish. Fortunately, the playing group has regathered and moved forward under James Pamment, who we have secured as our Interim Head Coach until the end of the year.  I know we are in very capable hands with him continuing to guide us through our Super50 campaign in the Caribbean, which starts shortly, and the subsequent tour of the UAE in December where we will play four more ODI matches.   We will shortly be announcing details of when and how you will be able to follow the broadcast coverage of those matches.    

Finally, and for the first time ever, the USA Cricket men’s team now has an official ODI ranking – we are number 18 in the world.  See attached ICC rankings which were updated on 3 October and can be found here

Team USA’s playing XI in our first ever ODI on home soil in Florida in September

On the women’s side, after a hard-fought qualification campaign, the USA women’s team finished only seventh out of the eight participating teams in the ICC World T20 Qualifier event in Scotland.  Although this was a disappointing outcome, it underlines the need for us to do more to grow the broad-base of female participants involved in the sport. However, I believe that with the right strategy and tools for implementation, the conditions are ripe for the United States to see material and rapid growth in the popularity of the sport within women and girls across the country.  Through one of its sub-committees, the USA Cricket Board is currently putting together plans to address this in 2020 and there are already great examples of success in the community, for example the recently announced National Women’s Cricket Tournament that is scheduled to take place in July 2020 in Maryland.  

Team USA Women finished 7th in our first ever appearance at the ICC T20 World Cup Qualifier

American Cricket Enterprises (ACE)

Outside of our national teams, the largest area of focus for me and the USA Cricket Board over the past couple of months has been on establishing the long-term strategic partnership and relationship with ACE.  ACE was chosen as our partner for the development of a world-class professional T20 cricket league in the United States, but the partnership runs much more deeply than this and calls upon USA Cricket to work closely with ACE across a multitude of different areas, including the provision of support for the national teams, the development of an entire pathway and competition structure for all participants within the United States, the development of suitable infrastructure and facilities, and the creation of a professional Major League, underpinned by an aligned Minor League system and Academy structure.  

Given these objectives, the existing base-line and the scale of the ambition, constructing the relationship between USA Cricket and ACE and how it is going to work in practice is going to take time.  To a large extent, we are breaking new ground on how to build a governing body, borrowing from the North-American professional sports league model, but also recognizing the important international dimension that a sport like cricket is based upon.  This in itself represents a significant body of work that is well underway and will set cricket up for long-term success in this country. To that end, we have decided to move the offices of USA Cricket from Colorado Springs to San Francisco in order to co-locate with ACE so that we can share resources moving forward and ensure complete strategic alignment as the relationship evolves. 

There are, of course, some challenges with an integration of this nature, but the sport is extremely lucky to have found a partner like ACE and the individuals and institutions that stand behind it.  Together, we understand the importance of an integrated approach to developing the sport in this country and appreciate that this is a long-term project.    

I look forward to sharing plenty more details on our partnership with ACE over the coming months, as well as expanding upon their specific plans to develop a sustainable professional Major League, an extended Minor League and a structure of aligned Academies in lead markets around the country.   

Other matters 

There are also a number of other matters that I wanted to provide some more brief updates on:

    • Membership: We would like to thank everyone in the community who renewed their membership of USA Cricket and retained their rights as a member through the payment of the annual subscription. We believe in the importance of a robust, aligned and centralized Membership program but acknowledge that we have not yet been able to develop a compelling value proposition that allows us to drive a significant uplift in membership.  This will be a significant focus for USA Cricket moving forward.  
    • Board elections: We will shortly be announcing the appointment of a Nominating and Governance Committee to oversee the next round of Board elections in accordance with the terms of the constitution.  Please look out for further updates in this respect which will be forthcoming very shortly.
    • Development Pathway: Through the work of the USA Cricket Board sub-committees, we are continuing to put together a map which shows the development pathway in the USA, from entry-level programs/schools/community engagement right through to the senior national teams and everything in between.  We look forward to being able to share that with you all shortly, so that everybody involved in cricket within the United States can see how and where they fit into the system and how they can progress in accordance with their own ambitions within the game.
    • USA Cricket job opportunities:  Very shortly we will be issuing job adverts for roles within the cricket department and development department of the organization.  Please look out for those in the coming days and share them widely within your networks and across your community, so that we can find the best possible talent to come and join USA Cricket.
    • USA Cricket Board meeting:  On 22 November, the USA Cricket Board will meet together in person in San Francisco for the first time since my arrival.  I am looking forward to spending a day with all of the directors, who have worked tirelessly behind the scenes over the past twelve months or so.  The main focus for the meetings will be to determine our plans and priorities for 2020 across all aspects of the business, and I look forward to sharing the key outcomes from that meeting in due course so that you can all see where their time and effort has been invested. 

I hope that this note gives you a flavor for the type of work we are undertaking to drive cricket in the United States forward. However with our admission to the ICC as the 105th Member earlier in the year, gaining ODI status for the first time and our strategic partnership with ACE, there are some fantastic positives for us to build upon as we drive forward to a new decade and a new era for cricket in the United States. 

On behalf of the USA Cricket Board, thank you to you all for your ongoing support and commitment to the cause.  

With best wishes, 

Iain Higgins

USA Cricket CEO