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By Venu Palaparthi
As I began typing this column on Monday, my region held a meeting to
welcome a new administration after an election in which a majority of
the leagues including my own league were disenfranchised. The majority
now stands on the sidelines - stunned, decapitated, and humbled.
These are not fake leagues as some would like you to believe. Three of
these disenfranchised leagues - Garden State Cricket League, Cricket
League of NJ and Millennium Cricket League - are the largest leagues in
our region. Their members have invested decades of sweat and blood in
sustaining and developing cricket. Together, they account for over 2,000
cricketers in NJ. One of these leagues also supports the only
league-organized youth cricket program in NJ. These leagues carry the
hopes of the cricket loving millions in our region and are recognized
for their love for the game and for their organizational prowess, not
just by cricketers, but by local governments as well.
The area's fast growing population places huge demands on the limited
infrastructure and the small band of faithful volunteers. Each year,
they take time off from work to lobby for new grounds. What they get
are swampy marshes and scrub land. It is hard work at the start of the
season. Even their regular grounds are a mess after a brutal winter and a
soggy spring. But once the season begins, there is not a single ground
in New Jersey that is rested for a single weekend day. They share these
grounds with the community, with the softball leagues and with each
other. In fact, when USACA came asking for grounds after a national
tournament was affected by bad weather, these leagues rearranged their
matches to accomodate the tournament.
So then these are the leagues that were disallowed from voting in the election for the regional administration.
Why? On what grounds were they rejected? Here's an example. One of
the three leagues has been cited for underpaying its dues for just
one club in 2010, a club that dropped out at the start of the season and
did not play during the season. Why would a league that paid $4300 in
annual dues stiff USACA for just $100? What do they get out of that? An
appeal was filed with USACA and an explanation was included in the
appeal but the regional election proceeded without the league's
disenfranchising the leagues was not the only remedy available to
USACA. Politically however, it may have been the most convenient
What is even more brazen is the way in which USACA turned a deaf ear
to the repeated requests and pleas of the president of Washington
Metropolitan Cricket Board to be sent the ballot, also disregarding the
wishes of 14 of the 16 clubs that comprise the league in the process.
Pic (Right): Cricket spirit? Anywhere but the US.
This story repeats itself across America. USACA has amputated whole
regions, shut off leagues in the surviving regions, and, as in WMCB's
case, they have also muted the voice of the league's legitimate request
for representation. Some of the nation's biggest leagues - NCCA, SCCA,
MCC, MichCA, CCL, CLNJ, Massachusetts State Cricket League - are not
eligible to vote.
USACA has reduced the pitch of dreams into a theater of the absurd.
The leaders have shown that they have no heart, choosing to become the
masters of cricket, not its servants.
With the national elections scheduled to be held on April 14th, it is
clear that two-thirds of the leagues have been defeated even before
elections have taken place. The outcome of this election is no longer
relevant. For to be silenced is to be defeated.
In his book “Politics,” Aristotle has this to say about the tyrant:
(1) he sows distrust among his subjects; (2) he takes away their power;
(3) he humbles them. It is easy to see why the fallen and dispirited
subjects have not yet gathered the strength to stand up again - they are
powerless and humiliated.
The tyranny of USACA has been completed. Even Aristotle will be
shocked by the manner in which the small number of 'voting' leagues have
watched their sister leagues get trampled. Few leagues have protested.
Those that have protested might pay dearly in the future. Even some of
the candidiates who loudly demanded a fair and transparent system
have since gone silent. One candidate is waging a legal battle. The
court date is set for April 12th.
Yes, there is talk of big money and commercial rights, and we have
all seen slick presentations about the largesse that awaits USA cricket
through the sale of these rights. We have heard about it at the last AGM
that was held in 2010 and we have heard about it in the town halls of
2011. We are reminded that development is just around the corner. As a
teaser, the 'compliant' leagues were promised a token handout of $2,000.
But a system that lacks a moral compass often sees very little
progress. History is replete with lessons. Just look at Equatorial
Guinea, a country which has seen windfall gains thanks to oil in the
last decade. The country has the highest per capita GDP in Africa and is
also ranked 28th in the entire world. But Equatorial Guinea remains the
"worst of the worst" in political and civil rights. Its constitution
grants the president wide powers, and he is among the world's richest
men according to Forbes. Meanwhile 70% of the population survives on
less than $2 a day.
If there is any hope for USA cricket, it is because history also
shows that tyranny eventually gets overthrown as the subjects rediscover
their spirit and coalesce. After the nullification of an election in
which her party won 81% of the seats, the Burmese leader Aung Saan Suu
Kyi, who was under house arrest, said, “without a revolution of the
spirit, the forces which produced the inequities of the old order would
continue to be operative, posting a constant threat to the process of
reform and regeneration.”
Her words finally rang true as she entered the parliament on April 1,
even if it took 20 long years. USA cricket has waited a hundred years
for reform. What is another 20 years?