Democracy heading for the dustbin June 3, 2006

Constitutional crisis in the USA

With the ICC deadline requiring compliance with its stipulations for a representative election process fast approaching, unofficial reports on USACA's progress towards a new and improved constitution surfaced at the Western Conference in LA, and none of the news was good.

In an earlier interview with Cricinfo, committee chairman John Wainwright had said that good progress was being made on creating a better constitution by the ICC deadline. The reports tell a somewhat different story.

It appears that four of the five-member Constitution Committee had agreed on a framework and were well on the way towards submitting a general report. But the fifth member, a lawyer appointed by Gladstone Dainty, the USACA president, to the committee, delivered a bombshell at a face-to-face meeting in New York, which threw those plans into a tailspin.

She voted to junk the process of democratic elections for the USACA board and executive, and proposed instead that they should all be appointed by an expert panel to be named by USACA. This constitution would be submitted to the 35 presidents of the USACA member leagues for approval. There would be no vote of the USACA membership, and no elections for any USACA positions.

All this was too much for a Dainty-appointed member of the Constitution Committee, Kahlid Nabi, who had been one of his loyal supporters. Declaring the process to be a total travesty, he wrote a blistering report to USACA and ICC and refused to participate any further in the committee's deliberations. He informed Cricinfo that he was willing to be quoted on his expressed opinions, and was prepared to answer any further questions put to him on the topic.

The problem this presented to the Constitution Committee was immediate and obvious. Even if they were to propose a reasonable and democratic constitution, the chances that the same USACA officers who would stand to lose their jobs and privileges would approve such a report range from slim to zero. Dainty has been expressing support for Wainwright and the committee, but admits he does not have control of the USACA board and will not be able to deliver on his promises.

Bobby Refaie, the former USACA secretary who was present at the tournament, said that this was precisely what he had expected. He explained that his view was that once the ICC had released the $58,000 to USACA due under the terms of its Associate Membership, there was no hope that the situation could be salvaged. There was no need for the board to pay any further attention to what ICC wanted them to do. Refaie pointed out that USACA had never acknowledged that ICC had placed any stipulations on it, let alone suggest that it was making any effort to meeting them. They have pocketed ICC's cash, and that, he said, is all they ever wanted.

It remains to be seen if Matthew Kennedy and Martin Vierra, the ICC officials charged by Malcolm Speed with making sure USACA delivers on ICC's stipulations, will have the courage of the convictions expressed in an open letter to Cricinfo and US cricketers in May 2006. Without decisive action on their part, USACA will continue on the same dysfunctional path that was first enunciated by Speed and Mani three years ago, and US cricket will continue to exist in its self-created doldrums.

Deb K Das is Cricinfo's correspondent in the USA