ACF members asked to rejoin USACA
The West Indies Cricket Board and the ICC have teamed up to recruit former USA Cricket Association member leagues in an effort to get them to leave the rival American Cricket Federation and rejoin USACA.
ESPNcricinfo understands that the ICC Americas Regional Development Manager Ben Kavenagh and WICB President Dave Cameron have contacted at least five leagues to convince them to return to USACA.
"As you may be aware, the ICC Board recently confirmed that the USA Cricket Association (USACA) is the ICC's recognized member in the USA," Cameron wrote in form emails, sent from Kavenagh's email account, to various league presidents.
"The West Indies Cricket Board and ICC management will, however, continue to work with USACA and other interested stakeholders to assist in overcoming some challenges currently facing the governance and development of the game in the USA."
This portion of the email text is identical to a statement made by the ICC in their press release at the conclusion of the ICC's annual conference in June. A spokesperson from the ICC told ESPNcricinfo on Thursday that, "As part of this process, discussions have recently been had with a number of leagues in the USA that have in the past been members of USACA, but aren't currently."
Lesly Lowe, president of the Commonwealth Cricket League, was one such administrator who received a call. Lowe said he was on the phone with Kavenagh and Cameron for close to an hour, with a major selling point being that no membership fees would have to be paid to rejoin USACA as a member.
"They're saying, 'You're the president of the Commonwealth Cricket League. We hear that you're the biggest league in the USA and you're not a part of USACA anymore and we'd like you to come back in and be a member of USACA once again. You can still be a member of the ACF. We're not trying to disband the ACF by any means so you can hold dual membership but we want to make sure you're a part of USACA,'" Lowe told ESPNcricinfo.
"I thought it was pretty strange why they'd want to do something like that. Why Dave Cameron? The West Indies Cricket Board is calling me up to say, 'Why don't you go back to USACA?' Why not someone from USACA? Why not Dainty? Why not Mascelles Bailey, who they just appointed (as Executive Secretary) and who I know pretty well?"
When asked why Kavenagh and Cameron were leading the recruitment process instead of USACA, Bailey seemed completely unaware of the ICC's assistance, saying "this is news to me." Meanwhile, USACA vice-president Michael Gale replied in an email that he would have to "investigate this a little more."
Avinash Varma, the president of the Washington Metropolitan Cricket Board (WMCB), believed that an approach from the ICC held more credibility. He said he would have been "astonished" if USACA had approached him given the history of the 2012 elections when the incumbent board went to great lengths to disenfranchise 32 out of 47 member leagues from voting.
At least a dozen of those 32 leagues now form part of the ACF. The WMCB did vote, but Varma was unable to submit the ballot amid accusations that an unauthorized party falsely claimed to be the league president and submitted an election vote for Gladstone Dainty on the WMCB's behalf.
"I was not surprised that the ICC would reach out although I did find it ironic in my case because of the whole series of events in 2012 when WMCB's election vote was essentially hijacked," Varma told ESPNcricinfo. "So now for them to come back to me as the president to ask to join USACA, to me it is a tacit acknowledgement that I was then and still am now the true representative of the WMCB in which case it proves that what they did in 2012 was basically unethical if not illegal.
"So I find it very strange and a bit hypocritical that in 2012 when I lodged my complaints they didn't want to hear from me but now that they want the WMCB back in USACA, now they are reaching out to me. So from that perspective I think it is another manipulative attempt."
ACF chief executive Jamie Harrison also said he was disappointed with the developments and voiced his displeasure in a letter to ICC Global Development Manager Tim Anderson last week, requesting the ICC to stop trying to poach leagues from the ACF.
"I find this continued interference in US cricket internal affairs to be deeply disturbing, and something that will make good relations with the West Indies Cricket Board more difficult in the future, as we wrestle with recent memories of its attempt to undermine ACF and its good and reasonable efforts to save American cricket," Harrison wrote to Anderson. "I now ask that you use your authority to put an end to these unseemly advances immediately, and to ask the WICB to stop meddling in the internal affairs of cricket in the United States."
Harrison told ESPNcricinfo that he feels the ICC has no business getting involved in USA's governance battle between USACA and ACF, and that it should be decided by the clubs and member leagues within the USA. He felt that foreign member boards should not be interfering in a localized domestic issue.
"Here are two people who neither live in the United States, nor work in the United States, nor play cricket in the United States, nor administer cricket in the United States, but they still feel entitled to badger the people who do administer cricket in the United States.
"To me it just reflects that colonial attitude that the ICC has always had about America, as if we weren't a country in our own right, but merely a possession of theirs. I think it's a slap in the face to American cricketers everywhere.
"When I heard that the West Indies Cricket Board would be helping USACA with its massive governance issues, I assumed that Cameron would be giving them the benefit of wisdom in how to run a highly effective cricket governing body. I thought that maybe he'd be flying Gladstone Dainty to Jamaica so that he could personally mentor him. I never expected him to become a phone solicitor, making cold calls on Americans."
Peter Della Penna is ESPNcricinfo's USA correspondent. @PeterDellaPenna