USA news May 21, 2012

USACA faces membership defections

Unhappy after being barred from participating in last month's controversial USA Cricket Association general elections, approximately half of USACA's 47 leagues are now in the process of breaking away to form a rival governing body for cricket in the USA which is calling itself Cricket America.

"The need for transparency, authentic political inclusion and effective participation of all members in the decision-making process are the founding principles of Cricket America," Leighton Greenidge, president of the Southern Connecticut Cricket Association, said on Saturday in a Cricket America press release. "We believe that the way forward for cricket in the USA is inclusion and not exclusion." Greenidge's league was one of 32 out of the 47 USACA member leagues denied the right to vote in April's USACA elections.

According to Gangaram Singh, media spokesman for Cricket America, the idea to form Cricket America was initiated by several stakeholders in the days after the April 14 USACA election. Since then, more than 20 USACA league presidents as well as 30 other individual stakeholders have been conducting weekly conference calls to forge a new path for cricket. Singh says that the governance structure Cricket America is conceptualising will be different from USACA's one-league, one-vote structure. Instead, there may be scope for leagues - both hard ball and tennis ball - as well as academies, schools and individual clubs or other parties not affiliated with a hard-ball league to have a voice and representation.

"What we want is a voice for cricket. This country has no voice for cricket right now," Singh told ESPNcricinfo on Sunday. "What has inhibited us from doing that before is poor governance. What we want the international community to know is that we are in the process of building a grassroot organisation that will do precisely that, that will give every individual an opportunity to play recreational and professional cricket. We intend on restoring proper governance back to the game."

According to USACA secretary Kenwyn Williams, no league has formally notified USACA that they are relinquishing their membership with them. USACA member leagues have until May 31 to submit their membership dues for 2012.

"USACA members have the right to terminate their membership at any time, by sending written notification to the Executive Secretary," Williams wrote in an email to ESPNcricinfo. "USACA has not received any written resignation notice from any of its members exercising their constitutional right to resign their membership. Further, USACA is an associate member of the International Cricket Council and is the governing body of cricket in the United States. USACA reserves its rights as such. Any entity that is created to contradict the ICC's mandate will not be recognized by the international governing body of cricket."

While a full list of leagues was not immediately available, Singh confirmed that the Commonwealth Cricket League (NY), Eastern American Cricket Association (NY), Florida Southeast Cricket League, Massachusetts State Cricket League, Michigan Cricket Association, Southern Connecticut Cricket Association, Southern California Cricket Association and Washington Metropolitan Cricket Board are some of the 20-plus leagues planning to break away from USACA.

EACA's involvement is no surprise considering that EACA president Rudy Persaud was one of the most vocal opponents of USACA president Gladstone Dainty during the past year. Another prominent figure involved in EACA affairs who is also understood to be involved with Cricket America in its planning stages is former USACA secretary John Aaron, who was suspended by Dainty last September before losing to Williams in April's election.

The day before Cricket America issued its press release, the Southern California Cricket Association announced they would not be renewing their membership dues with USACA for 2012. SCCA, one of the oldest leagues in America, was one of the founding members of USACA when the national organisation was formed and admitted into the ICC in 1965. John Marder, the president of the SCCA at the time, was also the first president of USACA.

"Cricket America will transform the cricketing landscape of this country through transparency and accountability," Avinash Varma, president of the Washington Metropolitan Cricket Board, said in the Cricket America press release. "We are working to create an organization that American cricketers will be proud of and one that will be seen as the flag bearer of the game in USA."

Varma's league was one of the 15 member leagues deemed to be in good standing and approved to vote in the USACA elections, which makes his intent to have the WMCB break away from USACA all the more significant. Court documents from the Ram Varadarajan lawsuit against USACA show that Varma claims he never received his league's ballot. Varma accused Keith Gill, a Dainty ally, of signing a notary public falsely claiming to be the WMCB president in order to receive the league's voting ballot from the election auditor. Gill currently sits on the USACA Cricket Committee.

The founding of Cricket America is the second attempt in recent months to form a breakaway organisation to challenge USACA's standing as the ICC's officially recognised governing body of cricket in the USA. Atul Ahuja, the former chief executive of Cricket Canada, had announced in November that he would run to become president of USACA. Ahuja was dismissed from his role with Cricket Canada in January of 2009 and now resides in Atlanta, Georgia.

Ahuja then announced in February that he was boycotting the USACA elections after the USACA board announced that just 15 out of the 47 member leagues would be allowed to vote in the election. Three weeks later, Ahuja announced that he had formed the United States Cricket Board, naming himself as its first president with former West Indies Test player Alvin Kallicharran and former Indian Test player Syed Abid Ali as its vice-presidents.

At the end of March, Ahuja announced that USCB would be hosting its first national tournaments from May 26-28. He claimed in April that two Twenty20 events would be played in Alabama and California under floodlights. However, Ahuja issued a press release on May 16 stating that both tournaments had been postponed "to enable leagues and teams involved with pre-existing current commitments to have the opportunity to participate." It is unknown how many leagues actually pledged to become part of the USCB.

Peter Della Penna is a journalist based in New Jersey