Allen Stanford’s recently concluded winner-take-all Super Series — mocked before it started by “Peep Show”‘s David Mitchell — was bankrolled by an American the Guardian’s Lawrence Donegan characterizes as “a narcissist, a misogynist and a vulgarian.” Granted, he’s no Freddie Shepherd, but Donegan is rather insistent that “allowing Stanford a stake in the game’s future is akin to giving a skunk a say in the running of a perfume company.”
I would have to agree with those who would keep the Texan (above, left) at arm’s length, although not because he bounced Emily Prior on his knee or wandered into the England dressing room as if he owned the place (even though he does). These were minor transgressions when measured against Stanford’s main deficiency, which is that he has allowed his love of the game to skew his judgment over the extent of its appeal.
According to Giles Clarke, chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board, one of the principal purposes of last week’s game in Antigua was to break America. “We have to see if we can develop that market,” Clarke said, which suggests those involved in last week’s events have learned nothing from the experience of the Pro Cricket League. Even worse, they have learned nothing from Stanford’s experiment in Fort Collins, Colorado, earlier this year, when he spent £2m (£250 per head) on trying to get the locals interested in the game. Its success can be judged by the opening paragraph of a recent story in the town’s paper: “When it comes to cricket – at least as far as Fort Collins is concerned – it’s nothing but crickets.”
There are 50,000 active cricketers in the US and 750 cricket clubs. The newest issue of Sports Illustrated carried a long feature on the game, although its suggestion that cricket was about to impose itself on the American consciousness was undermined by the headline, A Game with Tea Breaks.
In sport, as in life, some things are just not meant to be. Just ask David Beckham, who departed for Milan last week, disillusioned no doubt that “soccer” has failed to replace baseball as the national pastime or NFL as the national obsession. What he has realised, and what Stanford and Clarke will come to realise if they continue to chase their illusionary American dream, is that the only thing worse than having no ambition is having too much ambition.