It's less than a week till the start of the world's third (or maybe even second) biggest World Cup tournament: the ICC Cricket World Cup.
The United States of America failed to qualify, having slid from grace following their appearance at the 2004 ICC Champions Trophy, but days out from the start of festivities comes the news that the USA Cricket Association has been suspended by the ICC. Among sanctions imposed is the withdrawal of the USA side from the World Cricket League Division Three tournament to be held in Darwin in May - an early stepping stone to the 2011 World Cup.
The ICC Board made the decision in their meeting at Cape Town yesterday. The press release, issued in the last couple of hours, says more:
ICC Board suspends USA Cricket Association
The ICC Board has suspended the membership of the United States of America Cricket Association (USACA), it was confirmed today.
The suspension has been enacted on the basis of USACA’s failure to meet the agreed and subsequently extended deadlines for the adoption of the new USACA constitution and the holding of elections.
Under the terms of the suspension – which is with immediate effect and was confirmed in a letter to USACA President Gladstone Dainty on Friday – the annual ICC grant that would otherwise have been paid on 15 April will be withheld.
The USA will be withdrawn from the World Cricket League division 3 Series to be held in Darwin, Australia in May and relegated from that division.
Additionally, the national team preparation grant for that event and direct funding support from the ICC Americas Region Development Program will also be withheld.
The West Indies, as the ICC Full Member in the region, has been asked to play a lead role in monitoring progress in the USA. The suspension will stand until such time as the West Indies Cricket Board recommends and the Executive Board agrees that it should be lifted.
It is the second time the ICC Board has taken the step to suspend USACA with the body previously prevented from attending the 2005 annual conference on the basis that the ICC was unable to determine a legitimate governor of USA Cricket.
That suspension was lifted by the ICC Board in March 2006 subject to the meeting of certain conditions that included fresh elections for the USACA Board of Directors under a new constitution by 30 November 2006 and the appointment or reconfirmation of all USACA Executive positions by 31 December 2006.
By November's ICC Board meeting progress had been minimal but, following a request from USACA's Directors, the deadline for conditions to be met was extended to 1 March 2007.
This extension was granted on the basis that if the new deadline was missed then the ICC would revert to its previous position of withholding funds, not recognizing USACA at ICC meetings or USA teams in ICC competitions.
It was determined at the ICC Board meeting in Cape Town that concluded on Friday that USACA had not made the progress required of it and as such the suspension was re-enacted.
Commenting on the situation, ICC Chief Executive Officer Malcolm Speed said: "It gives the ICC Board no pleasure to re-enact this suspension but given the lack of progress towards a functioning administration of USA Cricket it has been left with little alternative.
"It is especially disappointing that the USA players have had to be penalized in this way for matters that are largely beyond their control.
"The ICC recognizes that the USA has vast potential as a cricketing nation but without a functioning administration that potential is likely to remain largely untapped.
"The ICC hopes this measure will serve to focus minds within cricketing circles in the USA, that sense will prevail and that all those with the good of the game at heart will come together and take control of this unfortunate situation."
Meanwhile, the following news item appears on the USACA home page:
February 21, 2007
Result of the Proposed USACA Constitution ratification vote
More than seventy percent (70.03%) of the member clubs voted in favor of ratifying the proposed USACA constitution. 29.97% were against.
Final vote count: 201 votes in favor and 86 votes against (totaling 287 votes).
An American national sporting body is in a state of chaos and disgrace, and it's far from the first occasion. Does anyone in the mainstream American sports media care?