The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Country where cricketers pay to play
- With 13 emigrants and without a sponsor, American team cries: Get the kids on the pitch

Southampton, Sept. 13: You can, it's said, sell anything in the US of A. The marketing of cricket, though, is still in its infancy and ' believe it or not ' the national team doesn't even have a sponsor.

'Our marketing has to improve, otherwise the future isn't going to be any brighter,' manager Hubert Carlisle Miller, a one-time Guyana medium pacer, told The Telegraph this morning.

In fact, except for top-order batsman Leon Romero, the remaining 13 in the Champions Trophy squad have emigrated from either one of the Caribbean islands, Pakistan or India (Jignesh Desai, whose roots are in Gujarat).

So, that's another worry.

'For me, attracting American kids is the biggest challenge. To flourish, cricket must grow at the grassroots. Indeed, the drive has to be directed at the Americans, not so much the expats,' opined former West Indies batsman Faoud Bacchus.

Best remembered for 250 at the Green Park in Kanpur 26 years ago and a member of the Clive Lloyd-led side which lost the 1983 World Cup final, Bacchus added: 'Simply put, the kids have to see cricket as an American sport, like basketball or baseball.'

His career, it may be recalled, ended when he went on a rebel tour of South Africa. 'The West Indies haven't been doing well, but the Indians have taken enormous strides. The character of your boys has changed,' he remarked in an appreciative tone.

Bacchus has been the coach for around a year, but doesn't have a formal contract with the national body, the USACA. Incidentally, he is being assisted by another ex-West Indies player ' quick Kenneth Benjamin.

According to Miller, the emigrant-driven cricket is largely played in Florida, Los Angeles and, of course, New York. Team US, by the way, lost batsman Nizam Hafeez during the 9/11 strikes on the World Trade Center.

A trifle emotionally, Miller said: 'We continue to miss him. Hafeez was a fine right-hander.'

The USACA has recently got an International Cricket Council-appointed chief executive, Englishman Gary Hopkins, but the set-up is anything but professional.

Clearly, one more surprise that.

'None of the players gets paid.... It's something which should quickly change.... Even I've volunteered for a cause and have come on leave without pay,' Miller pointed out, grinning.

Actually, be it captain Richard Staple (a real estate agent in New York) or Florida-based electrician Charles Reed, they, too, have lost precious dollars by making themselves available for the Champions Trophy.

Staple's side qualified by winning the six nations' meet in the UAE. The other teams were the much more experienced Holland, the UAE, Scotland, Canada and Namibia.

Predictably, their exposure on the biggest stage thus far has been very brief ' thrashed by 210 runs by New Zealand and whipped by nine wickets (inside one session) by the Australians. But, then, could it have been otherwise with five in the squad belonging to the 40 or 40-plus category'

Staple believes the dismal Champions Trophy results won't affect the 'growth' of cricket. His argument being even soccer took time to mushroom.

Well, if not anything else, at least the captain's faith may work small wonders.

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