30 Oct

USA Cricket became an associate member of the International Cricket Council (ICC) in 2019, and recently launched a 10-year plan to become a full member by 2030. To achieve that target, they must meet certain criteria at international and domestic level, including beating a full member at a major tournament.

Higgins says cricket in the US is on an "upward trajectory" and estimates the sport has between 10 and 20 million "extremely passionate" fans in the country.

"The cricket fans in this country stack up pretty well against soccer and other sports," Higgins told BBC World Service's Stumped programme, “but there is a disconnect between the number of passionate cricket fans and the amount of cricket content that there is to consume in this country.

"Our job is to help plug that disconnect and if we can create that fantastic national product and put our teams alongside the full members in terms of their on-field competitiveness, then we can start to tap into that 10 to 20m people and really start to make it mainstream in this country."

Any plan as ambitious as USA Cricket's has barriers to overcome, with Higgins citing the lack of a nationwide schools programme as a key one. "That's a real barrier for us growing talent which will allow us to perform on the field and achieve some of the performance target and metrics to become a full member," said Higgins.

"It's also a real barrier to cricket being a mainstream sport in the US. It's fairly intuitive isn't it that if you want to become a mainstream sport in this country then you need to have a robust community and schools programme right across the country and we simply don't have that. That's one of the key priorities."

Another obstacle, which Higgins describes as the "single biggest hurdle", is infrastructure.

At the moment, the country only has a single ground fit for one-day cricket - in Lauderhill, Florida - but they are holding talks around potential developments with partners in seven or eight locations

"We think having a major league tournament that rivals the likes of the Big Bash and Pakistan Super League is achievable so we recognise that there needs to be a significant investment of capital into the infrastructure that exists in this country," Higgins said.

"We all know that major league cricket will only be as successful as we want it to be if there are at least six stadiums across the country that are capable of hosting ODI matches, having 10 to 15,000 fans in them, engaging in the domestic and international cricket that will be played in those venues. "You can't engage a country as big as this by having matches only played in one venue."

Associate members play 50-over and Twenty20 cricket, but Ireland who, alongside Afghanistan, were the last nation to gain full member status in 2017, specifically wanted to play Test cricket, however, that is not currently part of USA Cricket's plan.

"I respect immensely Test cricket and the heritage, tradition and uniqueness that it provides to our sport but we don't have infinite resources - human, financial or otherwise - in this country and, like any strategy, we have to prioritise and make trade-offs," Higgins said.

"Our priority will be to put T20 cricket at the heart of the sport's plans in this country, unashamedly, because like the ICC, we think this is the best product to grow new markets, non-traditional cricket markets."

Another key focus for USA Cricket will be women's cricket, with Higgins saying there is a "strong argument" that it could grow quicker than men's cricket in the country. While they have an international women's team, which has played eight Twenty20 games, participation in women's cricket is still yet to take off.

"We're working on the engagement and participation of women and girls at all levels of the sport. There are some really exciting and simple things that can be done to improve visibility and to create more opportunities and tap into some of the passion that exists for that. We are excited about that but we've got a lot of ground to catch up, but there's lots of tools at our disposal that will allow us those quick gains."

John Stephenson


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