The USA Cricket board recently announced the formation of various sub-committees to help with the administration of cricket at the national and professional league levels.
USAcricketers.com caught up with Usman Shuja, a former USA national player and now serving as the elected men’s player representative on the USA Cricket board. Following are some of the questions we posed to Director Shuja, and his candid responses.
Q. Can you give us some insight into the charging mandate of the two committees you will be chairing which are High Performance & Pathways and League Growth & Development?
The High Performance sub-committee is part of the Cricket Committee. The charter of the sub-committee is to design and advise USA Cricket’s High-Performance staff with defining pathways to the USA national teams and structure High-Performance programs. Defining a clear pathway to the national teams is of paramount importance as it gives players and parents a clear line of sight and guidance on what it takes to play for the national team. Given my experience as a recent USA national player and someone who has played competitive cricket in Pakistan, USA, England and Australia, I feel I can add significant value in this role. It’s my vision to build a player-focused, technically advanced High-Performance program to maximize the potential of our resources. My vision is to lay the foundation of what could be the best HP program in the world in the next 10 years.
The League Growth and Development’s charter is to develop an optimal operating structure between American Cricket Enterprise (ACE) and USA Cricket to operate the commercial league. This role is also significant as it lays the foundation for collaboration between the two entities. In my professional roles at Boston Consulting Group and SparkCognition, I have led several collaborations and business partnerships, so I look forward to bringing my business expertise to support USA Cricket’s goals for a professional cricket league.
Q. As a former USA national player how important are the two committees you will chair, to the anticipated growth of cricket in the USA?
Both these committees are critical. American Cricket Enterprise (ACE) has also shown commitment to both the league and the High-Performance program through their investments in the infrastructure and coaching staff. We have hired some of the best coaches in the game and made significant investments in infrastructure, especially in California.
Q. What was the criterion for selecting those identified to the committees, and did you have a say in the selection process of the individuals appointed to the two committees?
The Cricket Committee ran a very intensive and transparent process to recruit members for the sub-committees. We published the roles on USA Cricket’s web site for two weeks and amplified it through social media. We also reached out to qualified professionals outside of cricket circles and defined the criteria for the selection process well in advance. There were checks and balances in the process and the board approved the final recommendations.
For the League Growth and Development committee, given the sensitive nature of the role it had to be an individual from the board to preserve the confidentiality and the integrity of the process. In my professional role, I have extensive experience forming partnerships and Joint Ventures, so the board offered me this responsibility to lead the effort.
Q. How well do you know the members of your High Performance & Pathways committee, and what do they bring to the table?
The High Performance and Pathways sub-committee is comprised of some of the best individuals who bring a diverse set of experiences. Sushil Nadkarni is one of the most decorated cricketers for the USA and went through the ranks in Indian cricket. Sushil is also leading youth development efforts in Texas, so he understands the challenges faced by younger players. I, obviously, know him well through my time playing for the USA national team. Nadia Gruny brings a unique perspective of women’s cricket to the committee, so we have that aspect covered. I feel it is very important, in addition, she serves on the USA Cricket board with me.
Ajith Bhaskar is a prominent member of the NY cricket community, a member of the USA Cricket board and very eager to help with our efforts.
Bobby Basham is Director of Player Development at Chicago Cubs. In his role, he is responsible for developing players through the minor league system. He brings a fresh perspective to this committee as we can learn from him about the best practices from baseball.
Dean Riddle, a sports scientist at Seattle Seahawks, is a sports performance professional who started his career with the England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB). He understands high-performance cricket, soccer, and football, and how to enhance athletes’ performances. Dean was also part of the USA Advisory Group formed by the ICC before USA Cricket was formed.
We are really honored to have these individuals on the committees and their resumes speak for their skills and how they can add value to USA Cricket.
Q. What are some of your immediate plans for the High Performance & Pathways committee, as well as the League Growth & Development committee?
For High Performance, the immediate plan is to develop a comprehensive pathway structure. We are a few weeks away from publishing that framework.
For the League & Development Committee, my immediate priority is to work with Iain Higgins, Paraag Marathe, and ACE to establish the best-operating structure between ACE and USA Cricket.
Q. With the anticipation of American Cricket Enterprise (ACE) managing an American version of the Indian Premier League, what role if any would the two committees chaired by you, play in such a commercial enterprise?
My role, as the board member and a professional with significant partnership expertise, is to build the foundation for a long-term partnership with ACE. Business and operating structures can make or break partnerships, so I want to lay the best foundation for this relationship. As that evolves, I might take a more active role in operating the league but right now my focus is to define the business relationship.