Field narrows to the usual suspects
The all-important biennial elections for the board of the USA Cricket Association (USACA) have now entered their final round, with nominations validated for all regional-director positions in the USA. Most of the nominees are the usual suspects who have previously figured in US cricket politics, but there are some surprises -- and there are interesting contests for several positions.
In this final stage, the USACA member clubs that are eligible to vote, perhaps a third of the 600 or more cricket clubs in the USA, will elect directors for their own regions from the nominees available to them. There are eight USACA regions, with the New York region having two directors and the others one each. The presidents of the member leagues in the USACA, comprising the council of presidents, also elect a representative to the USACA board. This gives the USACA board a total of 10 members, who are supposed to appoint and supervise the USACA executive, set policy, and review the management of all USACA affairs.
Here is how the situation looks like across the United States.
The two USACA Regions on the west coast, the Northwest and Southwest regions, are strong areas of cricket growth with good leadership and coordination. The Northwest region has nearly tripled in clubs and cricketers over the past decade, and has three leagues, which make up the Northwest Cricket Council. The Southwest region has a "powerhouse" league in the Southern California Cricket Association, which seems to have few working relationships with the two other leagues in its region--nevertheless, it has excelled in hosting national and regional tournaments, and has one of the best cricket complexes in the USA. The incumbent director for the NW region, Laks Sampath, faces token opposition but is likely to be re-elected - a matter of distress to many in the USACA leadership because he is considered by some as a troublemaker. The Southwest region is likely to have a two-man contest, with incumbent Ethirveerasingham having an edge depending on how local issues play out in the election.
The two Central zones, Central East (centered in Chicago) and Central West (Texas), are a study in contrasts.
Central East has five leagues, but they seem to be locked in some internecine contests over membership rights, eligibility and regional program management. Many cricket clubs in the region claim they are disenfranchised by those who manage regional cricket, and have threatened to sue if their grievances are not addressed. Director Akhtar (Chik) Masood, a former president of USACA and still considered one of the most powerful men in US cricket, has been the lightning rod for many of these disputes. His re-election would seem to be assured, but could be subject to legal challenges.
Central West, on the other hand, has made remarkable progress in a few short years towards becoming one of the most progressive regions in the USA. It has also seen a threefold increase in cricket clubs and players over the past ten years in the three leagues that comprise its region; it has enlisted the local communities to an unprecedented degree in supporting cricket, and has been the recipient of several national and international awards for programming excellence. Its incumbent director, Syed Shahnawaz, has expertly navigated the shoals and tidewaters of US cricket politics without getting entangled in any unseemly issues-- his re-election is virtually assured, but he (like Sampath of the NW region)--is viewed with some suspicion at USACA headquarters, and this could be trouble for the leadership.
The three zones in NE United States-- New York, North East, and Atlantic-- are where about a third of all US cricket is concentrated. They are also the regions where US cricket politics have been found at their worst.
New York has eight to ten cricket league,s depending on how you define them, and perhaps 200 cricket clubs in its metropolitan area. There is also a New York Cricket region, which is supposed to coordinate and administer cricket for the New York metropolitan area. However, a majority of member leagues and clubs were declared ineligible to vote in 2005, and there has been so much public and private dissension among New York cricket personalities that it is difficult to see them coming together on any useful regional - let alone national - program priorities. No less than 11 nominees are listed for the two regional director positions--together, they comprise a veritable who's who of New York cricket politics, and it is difficult to see who will be able to secure enough votes to win. This alone would make the New York elections a pivotal one for US cricket--depending on who finally wins, the future of US cricket could be at stake.
The North East Region was the source of much conflict two years ago, when it was alleged that an entire league had become eligible to vote without having paid its dues on time - an issue that was quickly swept under the carpet - coincidentally, this league provided the winning votes for drector Curtis Clarke. In 2005, that league is no longer eligible to vote, and incumbent Clarke is in a two-way contest with Nafis Ahmad, a "dark horse" candidate of whom not much is known but who might unseat Clarke given the latter's doubtful antecedents for the position. This would be a contest to watch.
The Atlantic Region has had its share of political problems. Shelton Glasgow, the incumbent drector, has been the subject of much criticism, several recall attempts and diatribes because of what is described as arbitrary and arrogant behavior, peremptory statements and decisions. His strongest rival would appear to be Ashok Patel, pesident of the USA Cricket Academy and winner of the ICC 2002 award for Global Development programs for his work with junior cricket, But Patel also has detractors who question his style and modus operandi. There are other hats in the ring as well, and perhaps one of them could emerge as a viable candidate.
All of the south east USA comprises a single region. Geographically, stretching as it does from Florida to Atlanta, it covers a wide swath of territory with many different characteristics. Florida is probably the area in this region with the most cricketers, leagues and clubs, but significant growth is occurring in areas such as Georgia, Louisiana and South Carolina as well.
The greatest issue of interest in the SE director elections is whether a person can serve both as a regional director and a member of the USA Team. The SE region has made a practice of this equivocal procedure; Faoud Bacchus was the SE director when he captained and coached Team USA, and incumbent Nasir Javed is following in his footsteps. In the USACA elections two years ago, the SE region vote was close. Perhaps in 2005, the SE region might decide that it too wanted a non-playing director--if so, we might see Javed replaced.
Council of League Presidents
There are 26 cricket leagues registered and eligible to vote in the USACA Council of Presidents elections in 2005.
The incumbent, Paul Da Silva, is from New York, and has had a distinguished career with the USACA. He has held important New York and USACA offices, managed the USACA Web site, and has held this position for several years.
Da Silva has also been outspoken in his criticism of USACA management, and was a leader in the rift between USACA and the New York region that developed in the early stages of the present USACA administration. It would be fair to suggest that many in the USACA hierarchy would not wish to see him re-elected.
There are several candidates for the post, most with no discernible track record in national cricket politics. An exception is John Wainwright, president of the Northwest Cricket League, who has campaigned for several years on issues and policies to reform US cricket, and has initiated his own exploratory initiatives for regional and national cricket reform. His outspokenness might put him at a disadvantage, but on the other hand, this (along with his track record) may be precisely what US cricket needs at this stage.
In summary, the 2005 USACA Elections present an interesting and complex picture, with (as yet) no discernible trend. In very general terms, the western half of the USA seems to have its act together, and is likely to make constructive progress if given the right support; the eastern regions have administrative and management problems to resolve, and need proper direction if they are to emerge from their respective morasses. Who gets elected to serve on the USACA board of directors for the next two years could well decide who will be appointed to the USACA executive next year, and therefore where US cricket is likely to go.