USACA elections March 28, 2008

This time it's for real

Martin Williamson says this weekend's USACA elections represent the last chance for stakeholders inside the country to end several years of massively self-destructive bickering and start rebuilding

This weekend's USACA elections represent the last chance for stakeholders inside the country to end several years of massively self-destructive bickering and start rebuilding. The "last-chance saloon" tag has been used a number of times in connection with US cricket recently. This time it's for real.

The main media attention, rightly, has been on the three-way race for the key role, that of USACA president. Over the last fortnight I have interviewed the gentlemen concerned and each of them has had an opportunity to put forward their vision for the future.

Outside the USA there is quiet but sincere interest in the outcome. The ICC, who in exasperation has suspended the US from the international community, is keen to see what the elections bring. There are those inside the US who see the ICC as either irrelevant to them or as being more in need of the USA than they are of it. Such views are utterly misguided. Without the ICC's funding and, more importantly, recognition, the USA will become more of a cricketing backwater than Gibraltar or Thailand.

There are also commercial organisations waiting on the sidelines, as they have been for a year or more, with marketing and promotional deals that could bring millions of dollars into the US game for grassroots and national development.

The three candidates all have their strengths. Kamran Khan is well-known and respected as a player, coach and administrator; Ram Varadarajan is a self-made man with vision and a strong team behind him; Gladstone Dainty, the incumbent, has years of experience in office.

With respect to Khan, he seems to be the outsider. His campaign has been low profile and while he will attract some support, he does not appear to have enough broad appeal to win, although supporters of Varadarajan fear he might split the anti-Dainty vote.

Varadarajan ticks the right boxes, and while until a few months ago he was almost unknown outside Californian cricketing circles, his team has credibility and he is a man who outsiders could deal with. He also seems to have the passion and drive to turn things around.

It is hard to build a credible case for voting for Dainty. As USACA president he has overseen a period of chaos, international humiliation and squandered opportunity. Stakeholders have been ignored and kept in the dark, accusations of regional favouritism abound, and his board have operated in almost complete secrecy. There is almost nothing in the plus box. In fairness, Dainty still wants to finish the job and for that and his amazing ability to weather all kinds of storms, he deserves some credit.

But the real fear is that if Dainty wins then all that can be promised is more of the same. The deep rifts will remain, as will the international suspicion. And if USACA under his tenure has been unable to attract funding or support, why will anything change in the coming months?

For that reason, Varadarajan has to be the preferred candidate. The alternative is too depressing to contemplate.

Martin Williamson is executive editor of Cricinfo