Over the past few days, we have profiled the candidates for the League Director and Club Director positions. In this article, we continue our election coverage with profiles of candidates for the three Individual Director positions. We hope that you will review all of the information provided and perhaps speak with the candidates before you ultimately exercise your vote for the best three candidates.
By Venu Palaparthi
In this series, DreamCricket will focus on some of the prominent candidates for the seven board positions. In a departure from past elections, DreamCricket will not take an editorial stance regarding the candidates that are contesting in the forthcoming election. Our goal is to provide you with brief profiles of as many candidates as possible.
Over the past few days, we have profiled the candidates for the League Director
and Club Director
positions. In this article, we continue our election coverage with profiles of candidates for the three
Individual Director positions. We hope that you will review all of the information provided and perhaps speak with the candidates before you ultimately exercise your vote for the best three candidates.
Avinash “Avi” Gaje
Avi is the Founder and President of NJ Softball Cricket Association (NJSBCL) which is thought to be among the largest leagues in the country. Some 150 teams comprising 7,000 player members participate in a 1,200-game season each year as part of NJSBCL. NJSBCL's games are played with a heavy tennis ball in the twenty-over format.
Avi began his cricketing life at a field that is regarded as the cradle of Indian cricket – the Shivaji Park in Mumbai, where he was coached by Anna Vaidya. As a junior cricketer, Avi was a Mumbai U18 probable. In the Mumbai circuit, he played for the Dadar Union Club in the Times Shield competition and also played in the Kanga league. Educational and career goals took precedence in the 90s but he continued to manage teams and play in Mumbai throughout that period.
Following his move to the US in 1999 for career reasons, he immediately mobilized his colleagues and neighbors and formed four teams that played on Plainsboro and East Brunswick area baseball fields. By 2003, this initiative grew into the 16-team NJSBCL. From that start, it continued to add teams each year until it grew into multi-division league with over 150 teams. This explosive growth has necessitated an ever-growing number of grounds and an effective system for management. Avi has continued to preside over and play for the Plainsboro Cricket Club throughout this period.
Avi served as a steering committee member at the American Cricket Federation immediately after that organization's inception. In 2016, when India played two T20 games against West Indies, Avi was the U.S. Liaison Manager for India.
Avi said that the following priorities would guide his role as Individual Director: unification of the cricketing community; attracting smart capital and sponsorship funds, creation of infrastructure; resource allocation to schools, women and NCAA compliance; development of local umpires, coaches and support staff; and making USA champion T20 team by 2028. Avi also wrote that softball cricket had tremendous potential at the entry level, especially in schools, which could be harnessed to expand the cricketing economy.
Avi has an MBA in Operations Management from Bombay University. During the day, he manages the company that he founded in 2005, which provides Enterprise IT services to the pharmaceutical industry.
Brian Walters’ earliest memories of cricket are from the school grounds at Clarksonville All Age School in St. Ann, Jamaica, where cricket was played every recess, during lunch and after school. His father, Terence Peter Walters, was the principal of the school and he too joined in the games.
Walters arrived in Houston in 1982 as a 14-year old lefty fast bowler and a middle order batsman, but in the ‘pre-information age,’ Walters did not know about the existence of a local league, especially for someone of his age, so he gravitated towards baseball and basketball as a teen. Walters discovered the Houston Cricket League ‘entirely by accident’ in 1992 and immediately joined the Combined Islands Cricket Club establishing himself as an all-rounder in that Division 1 club.
Having moved to Austin in 2004, Walters reached out to Usman Shuja, a cricketer he was familiar with from his days in Houston. Walters began playing on Shuja’s club in the Central Texas Cricket League (CTCL) until his eventual retirement in 2016.
Walters held a variety of administrative roles within the CTCL leadership team including stints as president of his club, vice president of the league, the lead for umpiring and disciplinary committees and as youth cricket coordinator. In 2012, Walters successfully contested for USACA board. On the USACA board, Walters led the USACA Governance Review Committee and became a strong advocate for the implementation of TSE Group’s recommendations for modifying USACA’s structure. Walters resigned from the board in 2014 frustrated with the lack of will on the organization’s part to improve its constitution.
Walters has been an energetic supporter of youth cricket which has seen him teach the sport to students and launch a summer cricket program in Round Rock, TX. Walters also worked with the Andy Roddick Foundation to bring cricket to underprivileged kids.
Describing the composition of the new USA Cricket board, Walters wrote that the make up of the new board will ensure a ‘highly divergent set of opinions, a reality that will result in more well-thought-out initiatives that will no doubt serve US cricket well.’
Away from cricket, Walters is the principal of BWA Consultants, which provides business valuations services. “For my part, I bring a problem-solving mindset to all situations, mostly due to my background as a management consultant. I am deliberate and thoughtful, which serves me well in situations where careful analysis and decision-making are required. I certainly see these attributes as assets that will serve us well on the board,” Walters wrote.
Jatin Patel is perhaps the most visible name in coaching education in the U.S. He has made expanding the ranks of coaches in the U.S. his life’s primary mission. He has so far trained over 270 PE teachers in cricket and conducted numerous Level 1 and Level 2 coaching camps on behalf of the ACF. Patel has single-handedly taken cricket to over 400 schools in Indiana and elsewhere.
In the formulation of his cricket coaching approach, Patel combines 18 years of experience as a soccer coach and official, his own coaching credentials in cricket, and decades long experience playing and coaching cricket. Patel is a NFHS accredited interscholastic coach; NSCAA and National USSF licensed soccer coach, referee, assignor and administrator; and a Cricket Australia certified Level 2 coach.
Patel started playing cricket as a nine-year old and progressed to the domestic U19 ranks within India. He also played inter-university and was already coaching U15 and U19 teams during his college years in India. Following his migration to the US in 1987, Patel began playing in the midwest and played for MCT-Ohio and MCC in Chicago between 2000 and 2003.
When USYCA was founded, Patel became the second vice president of USYCA. Beginning 2013, he concurrently served as the Chair of ACF’s Advisory and Judicial Committee. Patel received the first ACF Volunteer Recognition Award when that award was launched in 2013.
When asked about his priorities as Individual Director, Patel wrote: “Grassroots development for youth and women are highest priorities.”
Patel also emphasized the need for fairness and opportunity for all in USA Cricket along with accountability and transparency. “Besides more regional and national competitions, year round training for national caliber players is needed,” Patel noted.
Shantha Suraweera is the Chairman of Southern California Youth Cricket Academy. He is the former president of the Orange County Cricket Association and was a director of the American Cricket Federation.
Suraweera began playing cricket as a child in Sri Lanka and organized his village teams at softball cricket. He also played school-level cricket in Sri Lanka. Upon moving to the U.S. in 1994, Suraweera took a ten year hiatus before returning to cricket in 2005.
Founding of the Orange County Lions CC, Orange County Cricket Association and the Southern California Youth Cricket League are some of his lasting contributions to the cricketing landscape in the U.S.
Suraweera also hosted two important tournaments in recent years. During his time with the ACF, he was in charge of the quarterly American Cricketer
newsletter and his league hosted the American Cricket Champions League tournament. He has also been organizing a six-team U13 tournament in Orange County since 2015. Suraweera has introduced cricket to 15 schools in Orange County.
Suraweera told DreamCricket.com that he would continue to work hard at the national level if elected. “Having experienced the challenges that small leagues are facing and the process to overcome those, it is important to help small leagues secure proper infrastructure,” Suraweera stated, adding: “There are many youth cricket leagues scattered in USA. It is paramount to recognize all academies, improve communication among academies, standardize, establish assessment process and evaluation and necessary assistance [to the academies]. Suraweera also said that getting USA born youth to play cricket by creating a pathway was a top priority.
“Fiscal responsibility, transparency and putting cricket before personal interest or agendas will be adhered to during my service if I am elected,” Suraweera wrote.
Venu Pisike began playing cricket as a ten-year old in India. He played for the Gulbarga University team at the college level. Following his emigration to the US in 1998, he began playing cricket in Atlanta.
That continued until 2007, when Venu Pisike became the founding trustee of the Atlanta Cricket League (ACL). ACL now has 130 teams playing cricket with a hard tennis ball. In 2017, the league also incorporated a cricket ball league, which features 14 teams.
Under Pisike’s leadership and direction, ACL has organized cricket camps for kids since 2008 and these efforts eventually led to the launch of the Atlanta Cricket Academy in 2014.
Pisike presently oversees the operations of the academy, which conducts coaching four days a week. In 2018, over the Memorial Day weekend, the academy hosted a 20-team invitational tournament in three age categories. Pisike listed the formation of a high schools league among his accomplishments at the youth level.
“My primary goal is to unite the cricket community, which I believe is the key to success and growth of cricket in the US,” Pisike wrote. Pisike also listed the creation of a competitive league and tournament structure across cities, regions and at the national level to increase playing opportunities and to serve as a platform for talent identification, and creating a financial structure to support the overall growth of the sport in the country as his top priorities as individual director.
Away from cricket, Pisike is an entrepreneur. His company, Ecovue Solutions, is engaged in providing Oracle solutions to large corporations.
Suraj Viswanathan is the present Chairman of the Bay Area Cricket Alliance and is a familiar name in the Bay Area cricketing circles having served as the league’s Vice Chairman for two successive terms beginning 2011. Viswanathan also co-founded the ProCricShop store and batting cages.
Viswanathan began playing at the age of six and played with Santhome Higher Secondary School, which is the birthplace of many a professional cricketer from the city of Chennai. Viswanathan came to the U.S. in 2004 and began playing locally in 2005.
In 2010, he was named the captain of the Thunderbolts CC, which he took to the BACA championships in 2011, 2013 and 2016. At BACA, he volunteered for numerous initiatives such as the 4th
of July Cricket Festival, Labor Day Tournament and Memorial Day Tournament. Viswanathan lists the introduction of cricket at the Palo Alto School District and the Dublin Unified School District among the numerous achievements during his tenure.
Viswanathan hopes that the following accomplishments will define his tenure as an Individual Director: readmission of US as an associate member nation at ICC; vigorous promotion of cricket at the grassroots level and school districts; development of state-of-the-art infrastructure; establishment of a professional league to create a career platform for US players; creation of a robust fan base to help sustain and stabilize a scalable revenue model; and implementation of stringent governance and alignment of words with action in compliance with the new constitution.
Ajay Jhamb is the founder of the American Cricket Academy and Club (ACAC). According to Jhamb, the organization has four leagues – the Major Cricket League for leather ball play, the Major Tennis Cricket League for hard tennis cricket, the MiCL featuring 8 age-group teams playing in the 30-over format and finally, the Major Women Cricket League, which gives girls and women a platform to play competitive cricket.
Jhamb describes ACAC's founding values as 'Character, Community and Cricket,' which allows the organization to serve the community and teach the value of giving by using cricket as the medium.
Since 2015, Jhamb and ACAC have introduced cricket to over 50 schools and participated in conferences attended by over 2000 PE teachers. These and other development activities undertaken by ACAC have paved the way for the successful launch of the St. Louis Inter-School Tournament. Jhamb has helped raise over $600,000 and acquire a 20 acre parcel of land in the St. Louis area.
Jhamb played cricket as a child growing up in Punjab and led his U11, U13 and U16 teams. Following the completion of his bachelors, Jhamb emigrated to the US where he obtained a masters degree in computer science from University of Missouri. Away from cricket, Jhamb is a technologist. He also serves on the board of the Economic Development Center.
Jhamb wrote that the following priorities will guide his tenure as Individual Director if elected: build a strong team of selfless volunteers who can help change the negative culture around cricket; build a partnership with local PE leadership to have programs to promote school cricket and after school programs; define a pathway for youth cricket, especiall for high school kids; deploy resources for coaching, guidance for infrastructure at regional level; build relationships with corporate leaders to support local activities.
Ramesh Immadi is the Chairman of the San Ramon Cricket Association Youth (SRCA-Youth) and President of Cricket for Cubs, a non-profit organization that has successfully held inter-school competitive cricket for elementary and middle school kids from Dublin, Pleasanton, San Ramon Valley and Lammers school districts. 16 teams from three school districts participated in this year’s spring tournament.
Under Immadi’s leadership, Cricket for Cubs raised $77,000 to install batting cages in Dublin’s Emerald Glen Community Park. The organization has a 15-year agreement with Dublin to maintain and operate the facility. In addition to facilities and competitions, Immadi’s organization has helped develop cricket programs by donating equipment to local schools.
Note: Immadi did not respond to an emails requesting comments. Ramu Parupalli and Kiran Manchikanti withdrew their candidacy for Individual Director.