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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 cricket playing population places huge demands on the limited infrastructure and on 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 participation.
Clearly, disenfranchising the leagues was not the only remedy available to USACA. Politically however, it may have been the most convenient option.
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, Connecticut Cricket League, CLNJ, Massachusetts State Cricket League, CCA (an organization promoting youth cricket in California) - 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. Two candidates are 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?