x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Destination USA for international cricket

An American cricket official hints at the start of major initiatives about to bear fruit, starting with a proposal to host New Zealand's matches on the ICC calendar.

Lockerbie, appointed by the ICC for his expertise in venue development at major events, has a vision for cricket in America and is seeing progress already.
Lockerbie, appointed by the ICC for his expertise in venue development at major events, has a vision for cricket in America and is seeing progress already.

The New Zealand Cricket board are going to propose to the International Cricket Council (ICC) the hosting of a few of their matches from the Future Tours Programme (FTP) in the United States of America. According to Donald Lockerbie, the chief executive of the USA Cricket Association (USACA), it is up to New Zealand to broach the topic which at the two-day executive board meeting of the ICC that started today in Dubai. "This is part of a new strategic partnership that we have agreed upon with New Zealand where we might see some of their matches with other full member nations of the ICC on our grounds," said Lockerbie. "Hopefully we should have an announcement to that effect by the end of this weekend." "New Zealand cannot play their cricket from May to October because it is winter as well as the rugby season there. While we have the option to play cricket all year allowing them to complete more matches on their FTP schedule.

"In return, we will benefit from their experience as they help us in our endeavour to achieve professionalism by means of coaching our players, coaches and also umpires as well as commercial aspects of developing the sport." Also in the pipeline are advanced discussions with the Indian Premier League and the Pakistan Cricket Board to host a few matches. The IPL chairman Lalit Modi confirmed that the IPL is looking at hosting a segment or a short version of the popular twenty20 tournament in the US. "We are about to set up a joint working group and should see the IPL matches being held in some way in 18 months time," said Lockerbie. Pakistan have been holding their home matches in the UAE and the American board is also counting on marketing to its country's expatriate population. "We have had major meetings and an announcement could be coming soon. I have been in this business for 25 years and I can assure you things are happening," Added Lockerbie.

Lockerbie took over the post ten months ago when the ICC addressed the potential in the continent. A proposal at the the time to start an American Cricket League was mooted, however, with teams mainly from the rebel Indian Cricket League taking part. That proposal fell apart because the ICL players were banned elsewhere, it was planned in a hurry and had to be played in a baseball field. Aware of the precedent, Lockerbie has focused on venue development and a professional setup for America. Already, the USACA has one venue of their own built in Lauderhill in Florida where cricket can be played 12 months of the year. There are also more venues planned for Indianapolis and New York. At the heart of the drive - termed Destination USA - is man who has worked with the 1994 Fifa World Cup in USA and the 1996 Atlanta and 2000 Sydney Olympics.

"By just taking into account the Asian immigrants, we have an audience of 15 million in America and another 5 million in Canada. Yet in the history of ICC, no two full members have played in front of such a large audience. "We are the second largest internet user group after India and the largest in terms of paper view [newspaper] audience who are tuned into cricket. "So Destination USA is our invitation to the world, to say that we are open for business. "In the last year, we have not sat still. We are going to announce our own league. Interested parties are coming to the table for sponsorships and commercial ventures. But we want to take every step correctly and not rush into things." kshyam@thenational.ae