US cricket lurches towards crisis

Dainty's old guard face growing revolution

Martin Williamson

April 28, 2005

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Will USA in-fighting result in a non-competitive side, minus the likes of Clayton Lambert, taking the field for the ICC Trophy? © Getty Images
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Rumours have been circulating of late in US cricket circles that Gladstone Dainty, the USA Cricket Association's president, is about to start legal proceedings against the ICC. While that might seem far-fetched, Cricinfo has now learnt that Dainty might well be considering going to court over the late payment of a fee due to the board.

The sum of around US$58,000 was a regular payment resulting from the USA's status as an associate member of the ICC. The ICC's relationship with the USACA has been extremely frosty of late, but as the official board, the ICC had an obligation to recognise it and deal with Dainty and his executive.

Things came to a head in January when Malcolm Speed, the ICC's chief executive, wrote to Dainty. "We have never seen a sporting organisation that combines such great potential and such poor administration as USACA," he said. "From our observations, much of the blame for this lies with the current office-bearers of USACA including yourself. We question whether the current administration of USACA can play any constructive role in taking the game forward in the United States."

The USACA elections in March were, almost inevitably, controversial, and resulted in the emergence of two rival executives. One, under the control of Dainty and his supporters, was still officially presenting itself as the USACA board, while the other, containing a broader cross-section of stakeholders, set out its stall as being the true representatives of US stakeholders. To an outsider, Dainty's board appears to have little credibility. It exists only because of the highly questionable suspension of three anti-Dainty candidates on a disputed minor technicality after the close of the poll, and has lost the support of the vast majority of those within the game there.

As a result of this standoff, the Council of League Presidents, a hitherto fairly anonymous body, emerged as the main opposition to the Dainty board, and in Dallas on April 16 it set in motion a mechanism aimed at ending the tenure of Dainty and the establishment of a more democratic and accountable executive.

One outcome of the CLP meeting was that the ICC was asked to suspend all payments to the USACA until the impasse had been resolved. One source told Cricinfo that the CLP were surprised not to receive any response to its request from the ICC. "In fact," he added, "it was then learned that it was preparing to send that $58,000 the following day (April 18)." The ICC was contacted and, according to the source, the payment was held up after the situation was explained.

Dainty, it seems, got wind of this, and allegedly called the Israeli representative on the ICC who, in turn, upped the pressure for the payment to be sent. Although the ICC has continued to delay, it seems unlikely that it can do so for much longer without being drawn into the domestic quagmire, something it will not allow to happen.

Meanwhile, Dainty is coming under more fire on the home front with allegations that USACA funds accrued from membership subscriptions are being used to pay for attorneys to fight some of the board's legal battles. The accounts have not been formally declared - one of the CLP's major gripes - but it is reported that in the last fiscal year, the USACA ended up with a substantial deficit. With all the current problems, it is unlikely that there is much spare cash left in the kitty now.

Against this backdrop, the USA squad is supposed to be preparing for this July's ICC Trophy, the tournament in which success would provide them with a place in the 2007 World Cup. But without funds, the necessary preparations won't happen, and there are growing concerns that the USA might even have to withdraw from the event.

"We would like ICC to deny participation from the USA team in the ICC Trophy," a local administrator said, "because any Dainty-sponsored USA team will be so riddled with nepotism and mismanagement that calling it a 'USA team' would be a joke. Ideally, we would like the ICC to name an individual to review all the irregularities that have gone on in the past few months, and render a verdict on what needs to happen to clean up the mess."

That plan looks to have legs, as there have been calls over the last two days for the CLP to go on the attack and issue a warning to all member clubs that any player agreeing to play for a team selected by Dainty's board would be banned from playing league cricket again in 2005.

Another person close to the toing and froing said that the ICC's role was vital, and that there was a fear that if Dainty's board got the money, then the struggle would be prolonged and the funds swallowed by legal fees. An emergency meeting has been called for June 4 when the old guard is likely to be removed, but whether they even recognise any such decision is another matter.

Whereas the old USACA has been reluctant to work with any outside body - and most internal ones as well - the CLP has stated that it is willing to deal with "anyone, anywhere, at any time", to end the current mess.

There is a certain irony that in the world's leading democracy, a few can hold out when all the rules of fair play suggest that they should be long gone, or at the very least, should explain exactly what is happening. Instead, Dainty has been silent, not answering any questions put to him.

That he and his associates will be removed is certain. The worry is that by the time they finally depart, the damage to US cricket could be virtually irreparable.

Martin Williamson is managing editor of Cricinfo

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Martin Williamson Executive editor Martin Williamson joined the Wisden website in its planning stages in 2001 after failing to make his millions in the internet boom when managing editor of Sportal. Before that he was in charge of Sky Sports Online and helped launch and run Sky News Online. With a preference for all things old (except his wife and children), he has recently confounded colleagues by displaying an uncharacteristic fondness for Twenty20 cricket. His enthusiasm for the game is sadly not matched by his ability, but he remains convinced that he might be a late developer and perseveres in the hope of an England call-up with his middle-order batting and non-spinning offbreaks. He is now managing editor of ESPN EMEA Digital Group as well as his Cricinfo responsibilities.
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