USA January 13, 2008

US board has to wipe the slate clean

Whatever people might think of the process, the USA Cricket Association finally has a democratically-approved new constitution

Whatever people might think of the process, the USA Cricket Association finally has a democratically-approved new constitution. For all the abuse he has had to endure, Chris Dehring has done all that he can to ensure this has been implemented fairly, and for that he should be given tremendous credit. Making sense of such a divided and acrimonious mess probably made his troubles running a World Cup seem tame by comparison.

Now the fun starts. Already there are rumblings of discontent with accusations that many of the clubs who were eligible to vote did not exist in any real form. The easy way round that is for the USACA executive to release a list of which clubs voted - not how they did, but just their names. That will enable people to scrutinise the ones that sent in ballots and establish their credentials, and for club members who did not to ask their committees why they sat by and did nothing.

Fresh elections for the USACA board should now take place within 30 days, and that's where things get interesting. It's too early for any candidates to be named, but for the sake of US cricket from the top down, it has to be hoped that none of the executive who have, through their own dysfunctionality, made US cricket the pariah of the international family and who have caused untold harm within the country, will stand.

In any other walk of life - business, politics, your local sports club - someone who had overseen such a mess as Gladstone Dainty, the current USACA president, would have walked away in shame. But, remarkably, Dainty seems impervious to all that is thrown his way, and the same applies to his utterly discredited executive.

They have operated in a manner which at times has seemed in direct opposition to the game's best interests, and have done so with an arrogant disregard for stakeholders. Almost everything has been done behind closed doors. It's a sign of how bad things had become that the ICC suspended the USA and, after two years of internal squabbling, asked Dehring to bang heads together. Not even Zimbabwe has had that kind of treatment. It's a sign of how desperately the ICC wants a stable and reliable US board.

But there is every indication that Dainty and his associates will offers themselves up again. The low poll on the approval of the constitution - barely 25% of clubs bothered to vote on what was a crucial issue - makes that more likely than ever. Many of those who did vote were probably allied to the current board. If the existing bunch can muster enough support from a core which stands to gain from their continuing incompetence while the rest sit by and watch, it will be easy.

Laks Sampath, a director of the North West region and an influential administrator, has decided not to seek re-election, and he thinks that others should do the same. "At the end of the day the constitution is but a small issue," he told Cricinfo. "It's the governance that needs to change. The level of inactivity within the current administration must be addressed. The organisation lacks people with corporate experience and hence do not have the skill set to administer it.

"It's clear that we need to have a fresh set of people that actually have experience running successful enterprises. There's this complete unfounded thinking that only people with cricket experience can run USACA. That is about the as rubbish an argument I have heard and the proof is in the pudding. Let us bring in people that have some exposure to cricket, but have not been tainted administering USACA. Let us give them a chance."

The real concern comes if Dainty and the others are re-elected on a low turnout. US cricket will, in effect, be back to square one. Officially, the ICC will again recognise the USACA and the national side will be readmitted to international competition. But such is the level of infighting even that simple process is likely to end up in a mess. Factions will continue to snipe and several major investors who have been sitting on the sidelines with grand designs for cricket in the country may well walk away.

What is needed is a fresh start. There is too much baggage and too much bitterness. For the good of the game the next generation of administrators have to step and the old guard move on. The alternative is more of the same. Only this time, the international community will turn away for good. They have enough problems of their own without this one. This really is US cricket's last chance.

To paraphrase a well-worn quote of Benjamin Disraeli. The difference between a misfortune and a calamity is this: If Gladstone sought re-election, it would be a misfortune. But if he was re-elected, that would be a calamity.

Martin Williamson is executive editor of ESPNcricinfo and managing editor of ESPN Digital Media in Europe, the Middle East and Africa