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By Venu Palaparthi
After the April election, Gladstone Dainty got his wish for a friendly board of directors and a majority of the incumbents were reelected. Well, almost! The bonhomie lasted exactly six months and then emails began to surface suggesting that all was not well. From that point on, it was a matter of time before full-blown political strife returned to USACA.
On October 8th, Kenwyn Williams, the Executive Secretary, sent out an email alleging "unethical behavior" and "greed" exhibited by some board members. In reply, Dainty wrote that communications by Williams were "rude and demeaning."
A week later, Williams began posting on the official USACA Facebook and Twitter pages questioning the credentials of ESPNcricinfo reporters. What followed was a social media farce of epic proportions. Acting with uncharacterestic promptness, USACA held an emergency meeting of the board on November 1st and sacked Kenwyn Williams.
Nobody should be surprised if a friendly figure is now anointed the Executive Secretary. After all, Williams had done the unthinkable - he had dragged the dysfunctional USACA from mere disrepute to complete ridicule.
In all of this, let us not forget how Williams was elected in the first place. It is common knowledge that Williams was a beneficiary of the same block of votes that saw the reelection of the President and three others allied with him. It is also common knowledge that Dainty had no love lost for John Aaron - Williams' opponent in the controversy marred election.
As I have written elsewhere, and as history is replete with examples, a flawed election begets a flawed leadership. When just eight leagues constitute a majority in an election that should really have at least forty participating leagues, you should expect the worst.
The choice of tools and the machinations used by the regime in the run-up to the election have damaged USA cricket in unforeseen ways. That this was all done with the quiet acquiescence of ICC, an organization that was in a position to reinforce the importance of a democratic process but instead showed that it does not yet have the courage to put governance first, is worrying.
At a critical juncture in USA cricket's history, the ICC chose to ignore the interests of the larger cricketing community in the US. ICC has never objectively reviewed the circumstances that caused a majority of the leagues to be excluded in the election.
ICC's actions following the election suggest that it continues to unconditionally support the arbitrary regime. A USACA press release dated August 11th noted that Jon Long, Head of Executive Programs at ICC, had joined the USACA Governance Review Committee. Ironically, the aforementioned farce occured after Long joined the USACA Committee, thus giving him a ring-side view of the action.
ICC should understand that the most troubling aspect of USACA is that it does not represent USA cricket. In DreamCricket's estimate, fewer than one-third of all hard-ball cricket leagues in the US have paid membership dues to USACA during 2012. USACA, as we all know, does not publish any useful information - opacity being its first principle. But it is a fact that lights remain turned off in four erstwhile USACA regions due to insufficient number of leagues. Under USACA's constitution, a region must have three leagues and in four regions, and USACA does not have the allegiance of the minimum number of leagues.
Of the four remaining regions which continue to have representatives on the USACA board, one region, Atlantic, is represented by a man who was publicly disavowed by his own league (WMCB). USACA not only disregarded the league's request before the election, it has also chosen to ignore the fact that the Atlantic Region has just two full-member leagues after WMCB's much publicized exit from USACA. Of the remaining three regions, the Central West, which comprises three leagues from Texas, is disproportionately represented on the USACA board with three seemingly influential board members.
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]
"Compliance" which was the USACA mantra that led to the disenfranchisement of well over 21 leagues ahead of the election, has taken a back seat after the election. Appeals of the 'non-compliant' leagues remain unheard and promises to restore membership status remain unkept. One person familiar with the compliance management plan noted that a proposal was submitted to the board during the first week of June. Four months later, the USACA's October 5th release noted that "activities of the [Compliance] committee are currently awaiting full board approval."
According to the source, USACA board was to restore membership rights to leagues by September 31st if certain perceived deficiencies were remedied by that date. Of course, that date has come and gone.
The most disturbing part of the membership issue - one that all leagues must pay close attention to - is that the board is still the final arbiter of who is a member and who is not. This perpetuates the biggest structural weakness in the electoral system - the board ultimately decided who could vote in the April election, and since a majority of the directors were up for re-election, their decision could not be seen as impartial. In fact, the results of the election only strengthened that belief.
Even if the board were to restore full membership status now, it could just be a matter of time before the non-pliant (or non-compliant, depending on which side of the fence you are) leagues are once again shown the gates.
The ICC (and USACA) should review this entire situation carefully. Every once in a while, there is a loud and embarrasing explosion like the one we have just witnessed, but it is merely a symptom of a deeper problem. Throughout its history, the national governing body has chosen not to be inclusive and has shrouded its incompetence by maintaining a wall of silence. For as long as these issues remain unaddressed, cricket's reputation in USA will continue to suffer.