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By Venu Palaparthi
All talk and no action
After winning a controversy marred election that saw the present leadership emerge with the support a majority of only fifteen leagues that were allowed to vote, USACA has not exactly been sweeping U.S. cricket popularity polls.
'USACA’s goal is to expand dramatically the audience for cricket in the United States and to make cricket attractive to players and spectators from all parts of American society,' USACA said in its press release the day after the election.
USACA subsequently published its 100-day plan and hinted at efforts to reach out to the leagues via virtual townhall meetings. The plan also noted that its Compliance Management Committee would 'reach out and help all leagues comply' within 60 to 120 days.
Following that, in his first letter to USA cricketers upon being named to the post, USACA's Interim CEO, Nabeel Ahmed, said, "One of my major responsibilities as the CEO is to unify various factions in different regions of the country."
Over 120 days have passed since the publication of the 100-day plan. In true USACA style, it's bridge-building has been all talk and no action. And USACA's trust deficit remains.
USACA's 3-D formula - Deny, Decline, Disengage
With the necessary evil of elections out of the way, USACA appears to have gone back to its "3-D" formula of deny, decline and disengage. National tournaments have not been held in over a year and the USACA website has gone cold.
ICC, the game's international governing body, continues to behave as if all is well at USACA. Ironically, in his report on governance, Lord Woolf wrote that the ICC "has a heavy responsibility to adopt the highest standards."
Also, three leagues that were prevented from voting in the election but whose leaders have had long-standing ties with the present leadership have decided to let bygones be bygones and have rejoined the bandwagon.
Before you start to imagine a glow of congeniality surrounding USACA, it's worth pointing out that four fully compliant leagues have become ambivalent towards USACA. In fact, three of these leagues - Washington Metropolitan Cricket Board, North West Cricket League and Minnesota Cricket Association - have formally expressed support for the American Cricket Federation (ACF), the new organization that has set for itself the lofty goal of "upholding and promoting cricket’s values of transparency, inclusiveness and fairness."
A country divided
By this website's estimates, fewer than 345 clubs or teams are now part of the extended USACA family. The Lone Star State, Texas, has become a USACA bastion - all three Texas leagues remain affiliated with USACA and two of the directors on the national board are from Texas. Florida comes a close second with USACA enjoying the support of leagues that represent 82% of Florida's clubs or teams.
Picture above: In large swathes of the country, USACA has little or no support. Place a cursor on the map to find out estimated % of hard-ball teams or clubs that are affiliated with USACA. [Source: DreamCricket.com]
Outside of Florida and Texas there is hardly any state where USACA can claim authority over cricket. In four of the eight regions - North East, South West, North West, and Central East - USACA does not enjoy the support of at least three leagues needed to constitute a valid region. Similarly, USACA's influence is vastly diminished in Atlantic Region and in New York Regions.
For a majority of USA's leagues and clubs that play hard-ball cricket, USACA has remained as mysterious as Bigfoot - evidence is hard to come by of the organization's existence. By DreamCricket.com's estimate, over 705 hard-ball cricket clubs or teams in the U.S. operate outside of the USACA framework.
By all accounts, ACF is gathering momentum. Just last week, the ACF announced that it had received a formal expression of support from a 12th hard-ball cricket league. According to DreamCricket.com's calculations, the 12 leagues that have expressed support to ACF represent 385 clubs or teams. ACF appears to be gaining strength in New York, New Jersey, New England, Southern California, North West and the midwest.
By DreamCricket.com's estimates there are 321 clubs or teams that are not affiliated to either USACA or ACF. These are teams or clubs that have neither paid USACA dues nor have expressed support to ACF. Of these, 209 teams or clubs belong to ten leagues that were part of USACA until their recent disqualification.
A majority of these former USACA leagues have no interest in rejoining USACA. Four of these leagues have informally expressed openness to joining ACF but are awaiting approval of their member clubs to formally express support to ACF.
The remaining 112 clubs have never been integrated with the cricketing fabric - these include clubs and leagues that are thriving in places like Omaha (NE), Pittsburgh (PA), Iowa and Hawaii.
Meanwhile, the ACF is working hard to create an organization that is more representative and inclusive than USACA. ACF's steering committee has held weekly conference calls and the various sub-committees have held meetings of their own. ACF's most recent press release noted that its Constitution Committee had completed a draft of the Constitution of the organization, and that ACF was proceeding with incorporation in Maryland.
ACF is also set to present its first national tournament over the Columbus Day weekend in Los Angeles. The inaugural T20 tournament, hosted by SCCA, will see the participation of a majority of the leagues that have expressed solidarity with ACF.
So there you have it. Some 303 years after USA's first recorded cricket match at the James River plantation, and 47 years after the formation of the national board, this is a country where the national governing body is not recognized in 34 states and does not represent well over 66% of the nation's existing cricketers.