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USACA - A time to build bridges
by Venu Palaparthi
Feb 06, 2008
USACA - A time to build bridges

By Venu Palaparthi - Dreamcricket Special Columnist

As Alfred Reeves, President of Philadelphia’s British Officer’s Cricket Club once said, the game of cricket was in the States before we were States.

Benjamin Franklin brought from England a copy of the 1744 Laws, which formed the basis for the rules in USA. George Washington's troops played cricket at Valley Forge in 1778. Abe Lincoln turned out to watch Chicago play Milwaukee in 1849. John Adams discussed cricket in a debate over what to call the new nation's head of state.

If these great men and constitutional experts came back from the past and saw how the game they were familiar with is run today in the world's oldest democracy, they would certainly walk right back to the pavilion!

As Ricardo Inniss, a gentleman who has followed cricket in USA for well over three decades put it eloquently, "I have followed the operations of all the USACA executive bodies from the mid-seventies to the present, and to put it bluntly, nothing new or exciting has been done. The USACA executives, particularly the presidents, have rarely exhibited leadership. All along their tangible input has been infinitesimal, marginal at best. Most of us know who these people are by name only. They have never sought to carve out a direction for the authentic promotion of cricket here in the USA, and the one-dimensional attitude by most of them, as well the tendency to polarize, are the chief barriers hindering progress."

Same needless politics

What is amazing is that when finally, USACA has a newly ratified constitution, and has an opportunity to start afresh and to reach out to the disaffected, instead of building solidarity, those at the helm are up to the same needless politics.

It is well known in cricket circles that USACA's suspension by the ICC forced several leagues to evaluate whether they want to associate with USACA. Associating with USACA would have provided avenues for the league's players to participate in inter-league and regional tournaments. But the issues surrounding USACA's suspension were not trivial and could simply not be ignored. Now with the ratification of the constitution and the forthcoming elections under the new constitution, some leagues are willing to rejoin and contribute to the development of the country.

USACA should allow leagues to rejoin

Speaking about his own league, Shuja Khan, President of Philadelphia Cricket League, said, "Each year since our league's formation in 2006, we have asked ourselves whether we want to associate with USACA. All things considered, we felt that we would like to associate with USACA once the constitution was ratified and governance improved. After the recent ratification, our management feels that we should become associated with USACA as soon as practicable."

Shuja Khan said that he had written to USACA expressing his league's desire to join USACA but had not heard back. "Our league is based in Philadelphia, the cradle of cricket in USA. Philadelphia is home of some of the oldest clubs in the country. For example, one of our members, Haverford College, is the only college in the country with a varsity cricket club and a cricketing tradition that is well over a century old."

Shuja said that PCL, which has 14 clubs, wants to associate with like-minded organizations to promote cricket in this region. "Our slogan says it all - Revival of cricket in the Mecca of cricket - and we hope to work with USACA as well as the Atlantic Region to realize that goal."

Sarti Krishnan of Naperville Park District League in Illinois echoes Shuja’s views. “Our Regional Director invited us to join USACA in the past, but we were not inclined. Now with the ratification of the constitution and the forthcoming USACA elections, we feel that we should join and make our vote count.”

USACA should show some magnanimity

As a progressive cricket body, USACA should aim to be as inclusive as possible and welcome leagues such as Philadelphia Cricket League into the fold. By doing so, USACA will demonstrate its willingness to build bridges. Including more leagues is in line with its own goals to develop and promote cricket in USA. And the time to do it is now, not after the election.

However, what we see on the ground is just the opposite. A vindictive USACA is trying to lock out leagues that it believes will vote the incumbents out. A case in point is the North East region where the USACA has tried to discredit a league (and, in fact, the region) - a decision that appears to be motivated entirely by politics.

There are three major leagues in the North East region - Southern Connecticut Cricket Association, Connecticut Cricket League, and Massachusetts State Cricket League.

MSCL had previously disassociated from USACA but on January 16, 2008, following the ratification, the league wrote to USACA stating that it was withdrawing the letter of disassociation. Adrian Jordan, MSCL President, further assured the Treasurer of USACA that any dues owed will be paid with urgency.

As Leighton Greenidge, President of Southern Connecticut Cricket Association, wrote in a letter to USACA, "As a matter of fact, the Regional Director has included the MSCL as a part of the region in several ways throughout 2007." The MSCL players were also part of the Regional Team in regional tournaments during the summer of 2007. Mr. Greenidge also noted that the Director convened Regional Meetings where the MSCL was invited to participate, including one as recent as January 16, 2008.

USACA got into the act after the region met and agreed on its Regional Administration, as required by the newly ratified constitution. Instead of accepting the Regional Administration, USACA asked MSCL to submit another request for reinstatement.

Denying MSCL entry into USACA puts the North East region at risk of de-recognition - because the region has just three leagues including MSCL. A region needs at least 3 leagues to be counted as one – an important aspect of the constitution that has already caused the fusion of two regions on the other side of the continent. Mr. Greenidge has since requested USACA to re-examine its decision and re-instate the Massachusetts State Cricket League with immediate effect.

The aforementioned case highlights an example of how USACA can show its intent to improve its relationship with the cricketing community.

The USACA must accept MSCL as a member league, a decision that would increase its membership adding additional revenue to its coffers. The USACA must also immediately accept the newly elected Regional Administration and aid the region in development of cricket in the North East.

USACA would be doing great disservice to the region's cricketers if it forces de-recognition of the region and forces them to align with neighboring regions.

A call to the unaffiliated leagues – well hit or well left?

Elsewhere in the country, there are other leagues that should urgently consider whether they want to be affiliated with USACA and give it another chance or stay outside the organization.

Leagues such as Arizona Cricket Association and the Commonwealth Cricket League in New York, which have until recently been disassociated, justifiably so, may want to also participate in the electoral process. By doing so, they will ensure that their issues and priorities are not neglected if USACA embarks on a corrective path. That is a big 'if' but it is worth taking a chance. There are other leagues that have been unaffiliated, such as the BCANA and the Intercollegiate League, that should also consider joining USACA.

Not only can they make their vote count by joining now, they can also ensure that their best players are considered and invited to trials for selection at the regional and national levels. A springboard for bigger opportunities awaits if the ICC lifts its suspension.

In cricketing terms, which USACA and the unaffiliated leagues understand well, here is a ball that is waiting to be hit. Will you hit it, or will you leave it?

Postscript: Dreamcricket.com has heard rumblings about fictitious leagues among the current members of USACA. There are leagues with neither a published schedule nor adequate grounds. They have neither a website nor are incorporated. The election auditor who is still to be identified should ensure that these leagues are disqualified. We hope that the auditor will see the real leagues from the bogus ones - but that is a topic for another day.
 
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