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USA Cricket Association Annual Meeting - Highlights and Howzaats

2009 Jan 25 by DreamCricket USA

The Annual General Meeting of USA Cricket Association (USACA) was held in at the Ramada Plaza JFK International Airport hotel in New York on Saturday, January 24, 2009.

Venu Palaparthi

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The Annual General Meeting of USA Cricket Association (USACA) was held at the Ramada Plaza JFK International Airport hotel in New York on Saturday, January 24, 2009.

L to R: Haroon Lorgan, CEO of ICC
Inderjit S Bindra, Principal Adviser to ICC
Ahmed Jeddy, Representative of Central West Region
The meeting was productive and the atmosphere was cordial. Many said that the meeting was the best USACA AGM in some years in terms of how it progressed.

There were also many lighter moments. When Hemant Buch, the Western Region Chairman, was introduced as "Mr. Bush", he offered the correct pronunciation of his name and said "upon hearing Mr. Bush, I am afraid people will throw shoes at me."

There was much laughter when Bassett Thompson said that starting the 2008 PSAL Cricket action in March was not such a good idea because some of the umpires were so stiffened by the cold winds that they were unable to even lift their hands.

The meeting was also high on rhetoric. Barack Obama was invoked numerous times for inspiration and his "Yes We Can" slogan was co-opted by many of the speakers seeking change. Regions staked their claims to a variety of bragging rights as well. Mr. Masood's claims that his region had the highest membership were countered by Krish Prasad's assertions that his region was the best overall (a claim he repeated every few minutes). He also boasted that his region's Commonwealth League had more clubs than any other league in the country. Both gentlemen received mild sledging - of course, in good humor.

There was also a deep appreciation for the folks who were giving so much of their time to the development of cricket, including spending money from their own pockets. Sheldon Ellis of the Atlantic Region especially thanked Gladstone Dainty, Paul Dasilva, Manaf Mohamed, Ashok Patel and many others who remained behind the scenes but had done so much for cricket.

The most applause was reserved for Mr. Bassett Thomspon of PSAL and for Imran Khan who managed the victorious USA team that won the ICC Americas Championship. Mr. Thompson's many achievements at the PSAL are subject of a paragraph below.

Imran Khan, in a brief but moving speech said that he was honored to work with a team which was the finished product - a result of many years of hard work by many a kind soul across the continent. He thanked the USACA board for trusting him with the task of managing the team. He said that he had no doubts at all in his mind that USA would become a world class outfit in the next decade.

The meeting was attended by over 45 delegates - among them were Gladstone Dainty, President of USACA; John Aaron, Executive Secretary; Nabeel Ahmed and Manaf Mohamed, the two Vice Presidents; Nasir 'Charlie' Javed, Shelton Glasgow, Kuldeap 'Krish' Prasad, Akhtar 'Chik' Masood Syed, and Ahmed Jeddy - Regional Representatives of South East, Atlantic, New York, Central East and Central West Regions respectively. Western Region was represented by Hemant Buch - the Chairman of the Region. Also among the audience were several regional chairmen, league presidents, regional directors, club administrators, and former officials.

ICC CEO Haroon Lorgat and Principal Adviser Inderjit Singh Bindra met with the USACA Board of Directors for over two hours. Martin Vieira of ICC Americas Development was also present during the morning session.

Highlights of the day

No threat to USACA: USACA board dispelled the rumors that have been floating around that USACA was under 'review' by the ICC and that it might be suspended once again. Mr. Dainty said that the board's meeting with Mr. Lorgat and Mr. Bindra was cordial and that ICC was "happy that we are all getting along." Mr. Dainty said that the ICC was informed that USACA was working as one family, and joked that "we do fight as family members usually do." He said that there was substantially more stability and fellowship among the current board than he had ever seen.

Mr. Dainty said that USACA had walked the ICC delegates through the progress that was being made following the adoption of the new constitution. He said that the ICC also appreciates the fact that the CEO recruitment process cannot be rushed.

North East Region Readmitted: Addressing a question by a section of the audience about the disqualification of the North East Region, John Aaron, the USACA Secretary, said that Compliance Committee has reviewed their application and found it to be in line with all USACA norms. He announced that the North East Region was being reinstated pending one last (and minor) procedure.

The decision was applauded by the attendees, including those from the erstwhile North East Region such as Leighton Greenidge of Southern Connecticut.

CEO Search: Mr. Dainty said that substantial progress had been made in the recruitment of a CEO. USACA received 41 applications for the job from USA and abroad of whom 20 were found to be qualified for the job. The Recruitment Committee has since reviewed and shortlisted 5 candidates for the job and the CEO will be announced after a series of interviews. Mr. Dainty said that the new President will take office in April of 2009.

PSAL Schools Cricket Progress: The New York Public Schools Athletic League was represented at the AGM by the Cricket Commissioner Bassett Thompson. He said that 24 high schools are expected to participate in the New York PSAL cricket program this year - 10 more than last year. Also, the number of divisions is expected to grow from 2 to 5 giving the program a much larger footprint. Mr. Thompson also said that keeping in view the extremely cold weather in March, the program is expected to kick off in warmer temperature this year.

The PSAL will offer three coaches clinics, the first of which will be held on February 5, 2009. The first session will feature Mr. Fiitzroy Hayles and Mr. Mike Hill. Mr. Hayles is the President of the United States of America Cricket Umpires' Association,Mr. Hill has a UKCC2-level coaching badge and is the manager and coach of the City of Manchester U13 team.
L to R: Nabeel Ahmed (FVP), John Aaron (Secretary), Gladstone Dainty
(President) and Manaf Mohamed (2nd VP)

The representatives from the other regions appeared energized by the PSAL's success and Mr. Thompson said that he would be happy to discuss his blue-print with other regions. "My dream is to see a cricket draft in the USA that is comparable to basketball or baseball draft," he said drawing a big applause.

Mr. Thompson said that a Middle School league was also being planned but he wanted the present High School program to be stabilized over a 3 year period before expanding to Middle Schools.

South Western Region likely to become a region in its own right: John Aaron said that efforts were underway for South Western Region to become an independent region as Arizona league becomes a USACA member. If either Hawaii or San Diego can come on board, there is every possibility that the region will have enough leagues to become an independent region.

Collegiate Cricket: Shelton Glasgow said that a 6 college league had approached him and he was currently assisting the league with developing a schedule that is convenient for the teams. As DreamCricket readers are aware, collegiate championships were also in place in Michigan Cricket Association and a league has been functioning in the mid-west as well as in the North East for some years.

USACA to become more inclusive: The Atlantic Region has accepted the application of the NJ Softball Cricket League to become a USACA member. This step raised some eyebrows but both the Secretary and the President of USACA said that softball cricket played an important role in popularizing the sport and every option was worth exploring when it came to increasing the appeal of the game. This step will allow other regions to invite tape ball (also known as softball or tennis ball) cricket leagues to join the USACA fold thereby increasing the membership of USACA.

In fact, the mood throughout the day was that of inclusivity. Mr. Dainty said that it was time USA cricket community shook off the old habit of 'knocking each other down until only the last man was left standing.'

Several new leagues had expressed interest and were awaiting admission following compliance checks by various regional representatives. It remains to be seen whether Georgia Supreme, MichCA, PCL and other leagues will be readmitted.

Youth Cricket: Mr. Krish Prasad and Mr. Jeffroy Marshall said that the New York region was submitting a bid prepared by Mr. Clifford Hinds to host the Under 19 National Championship between May 22nd and 25th, 2009. This will give USA enough time to prepare for the ICC Americas U19 tournament and put them on a path to qualify for ICC U19 2010 World Cup in Kenya.

Mr. Masood said that his region would be hosting a youth seminar for all youth coordinators in March. Hemant Buch of the Western Region spoke about the three international tours (Bermuda, UK and India) and about the USA tour of Canada - all of which have helped to energize the youth of his region. All other regions noted that their youth programs too were progressing well. Ahmed Jeddy also spoke of the youth cricket activities in his region.

Umpiring Certification: Mr. Fitzroy Hayles and Gokul Chakravarthy tabled a plan to train and certify umpires in all regions with a view to harmonize the umpiring standards across regions and create a federation of umpires that was democratic and representative of the entire nation. A healthy discussion followed and the board requested the gentlemen to present a proposal in three weeks time with a detailed roadmap to create a representative and inclusive federation that is in step with aspirations of umpires across the country.

The subject of improvement of umpiring standards resonated with all the regions. Ahmed Jeddy of the Central West region, spoke about the progress within his region on the umpiring front. He said that two Level One seminars were planned ahead of the 2009 season and during 2008, these seminars attracted 140 attendees and 103 examinees with 94 successfully passing Level One. Level Two and Level Three seminars were planned as well, he noted. Shelton Glasgow of the Atlantic Region said that an umpiring seminar was also planned in his region.

Women's Cricket: New York has plans to launch a Women's Progam in early 2009 under the guidance of Venelda Wallace. Atlantic Region has secured the commitment of 21 women to play cricket in the 2009 season and they will start practicing at Indoor Cricket USA beginning January 30th. This progress was achieved through the hard work of Ivy Mahabir, the region's Women's Cricket Coordinator. South Eastern and Western Region too were making progress on this front.

Treasurer's Report: John Thickett, USACA Treasurer, noted that the organization remains cash challenged. The Treasurer's report also reassured that money was earmarked for the CEO position in the budget for 2009. He also noted that a plan was created to increase revenues to over $500K in order to develop cricket and to pay down the liabilities (which stood at $124,770 at 2007 year-end and remained over $100K at end of 2008). The ICC budgetary process targets halving the amount in 2009 and eliminating it altogether in 2010.

The Treasurer, who could not attend the meeting due to professional commitments, submitted a comprehensive report which included improved checks and balances. He also noted that he gained access to the Bank of America Account in early January 2009 and was able to check the account online as well as perform electronic reconciliations.

Funding Situation: During 2008, the Treasurer's unaudited financials mentioned $120K in funding for development of cricket and other tournament expenses. In comparison, membership dues were just $17K. He noted that several leagues had not pay their dues in 2008 and they risk losing their membership to USACA soon.

Thanks to ICC funding enhancements, the Board said that USACA would make good on Mr. Dainty's campaign promise of providing matching funds. Mr. Dainty said that he USACA would definitely match, in a 2:3 ratio, the funds raised by the various regions. He urged all regions to improve their fundraising efforts and reminded that ICC, while increasing its own funding of development programs, was not the answer for the region's funding needs. Stressing the need for more robust fundraising in each region, he also hoped that the regions would create legal entities and consistent with ICC funding policies, USA and its regions would be expected to be accountable for all the monies spent. He said that the Treasurer had discussed the budget process with all regions and each region would soon be finalizing the regional budget for 2009.

However, questions pertaining to Mr. Dainty's campaign promises of providing $25,000 to each region or raising $150,000 for USACA in his first year were not offered the bat by Mr. Dainty. The Treasurer did note in his report that certain third parties had approached USACA in 2008 with proposals to host international teams playing in USA. The Board was evaluating several such proposals. The Treasurer has also provided Regional Treasurers with drafts of fundraising documents and flyers for local fundraising.

Answering a question pertaining to member fees, the Secretary said that the board was considering a comprehensive proposal on that matter and any decisions would be announced after a thorough review of the said proposal.

Mr. Martin Viera of ICC Americas Development Program emphasized the need for USA cricket to do more. While appreciating and respecting the increased efforts of volunteers in USA, he said that Toronto alone had 72 schools that played cricket. He said that 26,000 students were involved in school level cricket in Canada. Mr. Viera said that the tiny island of Bermuda with a population of 65,000 was able to receive non-ICC funding in excess of $11 Million for cricket. He asked USA to explore non-ICC funding options including government and corporate funding.

Well Left: Just as in cricket, where some balls are just left without offering a stroke, some issues were just better left unaddressed, either that or the meeting did not result in a satisfactory answer, or in some cases, there just appeared to be no quick and easy solution and Mr. Dainty's advice to be patient was indeed on the mark.

The unfinished task of holding the 2008 National Senior Championship did not elicit a direct response from the board except the restatement of the facts and circumstances surrounding that postponement. However, the tentative schedule for 2009 appears to have been presented to each regional representative. DreamCricket will publish this schedule once it is made public.

Some members of the audience asked Mr. Viera if USA could get a wild card entry based on its victory in the ICC Americas where it had defeated two ODI countries (Bermuda and Canada). He said that such decisions were not made by his office but presented his view that such a wild card entry would set a dangerous precedent. He also reminded the attendees about USA's performance in WCL Division 5.

The audience was hopeful that USA's victory in ICC Americas, the second place finish at the U15 tournament, and the gradual improvement in governance may have at least resulted in the country being classified as a High Performance Country or put it further along that path. Perhaps it would have been good to hear Mr. Viera's views on that subject but time was short. The Treasurer's report did indicate that more money would be available during 2009 as performance and ranking improves, so perhaps there is a silver lining if USA makes a habit of winning.

WIth regards to the Broward County Stadium, USACA said that it would encourage everybody to use the stadium. However, the stadium was a county owned stadium and there was no exclusive arrangement with USACA. Mr. Javed of the South East Region said that anybody could reserve the stadium for roughly $2000 per day but additional services could add to that cost. He said that the local clubs were unable to use the stadium because of the high expense. He said that rugby and soccer organizers appeared to be using the facility more often than the cricket organizers.

Across America, grounds were being reclaimed by cities and new ones being developed. A turf wicket was planned for Houston, a new turf wicket was also planned in LA and a private one was coming up in Florida. Efforts were also underway for additional grounds in New York, which Krish Prasad said would be on par with first class facilities in other countries if not of international standards.

Other issues such as standardizing playing rules across leagues and relaxing residency requirements were also discussed. While USACA said that it would not mandate leagues to follow a prescribed set of rules, Mr. Dainty said he would certainly be willing to publish the rules that USACA would follow at inter-league level and above. Following these rules would be in the best interest of the leagues but it is for them to decide how they wanted to play their cricket. With regards to residency requirements, a question that was addressed to Mr. Viera, his view was that the same rules applied to all countries. USA's citizenship and residency process is not as fast as the other countries. And a good cricketer who immigrates to USA would perhaps lose his chance forever owing to the delays in acquiring residency - a point of view which could not be presented due to shortage of time.