As cricket — and the whole world — takes a break, I am reviewing the last 13 years of cricket, from when I became a fan in April, 2007 to the present day.
It’s been — almost with a doubt — a positive 13 years for the US Men’s cricket team.
2007 dawned with the US Men about to embark to Australia to participate in division 3 of the World Cricket League, only to have their plans scuttled by yet another suspension from international cricket, their second in two years. Both punishments were imposed by the ICC for disputes within the governing body of US cricket, the United States of America Cricket Association (USACA). The suspension in the spring of 2007 would be lifted in April of 2008.
Thus began a middling series of seasons by the US men, full of some ups, some downs, but mostly stagnation. They started in the World Cricket League fifth division after the suspension, and they promptly earned promotion to division four in 2010, then to division three in 2011 before being relegated back to division four the following year. In 2013 they were promoted to division three, and then were relegated back to division four in 2014. (Deep breath.)
During these years, USACA was slowly but very surely becoming the laughing stock of the cricketing world. Rival USA Cricket bodies started forming and leaching off members, and the ICC continued to investigate USACA independently. The calls to ICC to remove USACA’s status as the official US Cricket governing body grew louder and louder and louder, until the situation became almost untenable. USACA was a mess. A corrupt, bloated mess. From their finances to their constitution (or lack thereof) and their complete and utter inability to support growth of the game in one of cricket’s most fertile yet most underdeveloped markets.
In 2015, the ICC suspended USACA. More or less cutting off their funding while still allowing the national teams to play in ICC sanctioned tournaments. The US Men got back in o division three in 2016, where they remained after a fourth place finish in 2017.
Finally, in June of 2017, the ICC removed USACA permanently, and granted jurisdiction over cricket in the US to a new organization, USA Cricket, in 2019.
Cricket fans across the land celebrated. Maybe, now, finally, the men’s team would start to have the support they needed in order to being the process of reestablishing themselves on the world cricket scene after missing in action for well over a century. And the team responded almost immediately: they were promoted to division 2 in 2018 and they finished in the top four of the same division in 2019, qualifying them for a new incarnation of division 2, which includes a path toward qualification for the 2023 World Cup.
That fourth place finish included a loss in the third place game to Papua New Guinea, a match that received official ODI designation, making it just the third official ODI for the US Men in the history of the format.
In probably the most fun development of the past year, their qualification for the road toward the World Cup includes several ODIs on home soil. Their first domestic ODI series took place in September of 2019, a tri-series featuring Papua New Guinea and Namibia. The US men won three of their four matches, losing their last match to Namibia in a rain shortened contest. They’ve since played a handful more ODIs, beating the UAE twice and splitting results with Scotland in December before losing all four of their matches in a tri-series this past February against Nepal and Oman.
And, of course, the US men played their fair share of T20s between 2007 and 2020, playing in T20 World Championship qualifying tournaments in 2010, 2012, 2013 and 2015, finishing 6th, 12th, 15th and 10th, respectively. Then, in 2019, the ICC granted all associate nations full T20 status. So the USA played their first full T20 international in March of the same year against the UAE, and their most recent this past August, losing to North American rivals Canada. All told, they have played eight T20Is, all of them in 2019. They have won two (beating the Cayman Islands twice this past August), lost five, and had one no result. (Side note: that no result was in their first T20I against the UAE. In Dubai. Because of rain. In Dubai. You can’t make that kind of stuff up.)
Which brings us up to today, where everything, of course, has come to a stand still.
They were supposed to be playing an ODI tri-series against the UAE and Scotland in Florida as we speak, but that of course was rightfully postponed, and as near as I can tell there are no fixtures currently scheduled for the US men. It’s a shame, of course, that the world has paused just as the US were poised to make at least a little noise on the world cricket scene, but we all get that that’s small potatoes in comparison to, you know, everything else.
But, still, a bummer. Now I don’t think even the most optimistic US supporters saw them realistically qualifying for the World Cup, but it still would have been a fun ride.
That said, once this whole thing finally blows over, there’s a lot to be positive about with regard to this team. Their top five ODI run scorers are all under 30 years age, for instance, as are four of their top five ODI wicket takers. Those numbers aren’t as great on the T20I side, but they are still good. And just 11 days ago, right before the whole world caught on fire, Dane Piedt, a spinner with nine Test caps for South Africa, turned his back on the Saffers to play for the newly formed US T20 Minor League Tournament, with further intentions to meet the qualifications to play for the US national team and help them reach the World Cup.
And so 13 years on, despite the coronavirus, the US men’s team — and, really, all of US cricket in general — is better off than it was in 2007, I don’t think anyone could argue with that. Even with the coronavirus I think that might be true. Results on the field aside — results which have been positive — the destruction of USACA alone would be enough to give US fans hope for the future. But the results plus USACA getting the boot plus a group of young, fun to watch, hungry players makes one even more excited for this virus to clear the hell out so we can get back to the cricket.