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Leadership vacuum at USA Cricket as chairman Paraag Marathe resigns

Multiple sources have also said that another independent director, Rohan Sajdeh, submitted his resignation in March

USA cricket is facing uncertain times  •  Peter Della Penna

USA cricket is facing uncertain times  •  Peter Della Penna

Six months after the resignation of CEO Iain Higgins, USA Cricket is facing more uncertainty in leadership with board chairman Paraag Marathe also stepping down.
USA Cricket board member Venu Pisike told ESPNcricinfo that this is all part of an agreement: Marathe's resignation in return for Pisike and fellow board member Srini Salver dropping a longstanding lawsuit against the board.
Multiple sources have also said that another independent director, Rohan Sajdeh, submitted his resignation in March which now leaves three significant roles vacant in the board.
The lawsuit filed by Pisike and Salver was in relation to the USA Cricket elections, namely that they had waived the constitutional requirement that in order to vote, members had to be registered and in good standing for a minimum of 12 months prior to a vote.
USA Cricket was going to allow new members to vote just weeks after enrolling in late 2020 and early 2021. Separately, Pisike and Salver issued a legal challenge to Marathe's re-appointment as an independent director and board chairman in March 2021. They claimed that the post should only have been filled after the election, which has already been delayed by 17 months, with inputs from the newly-elected board members.
"The two issues raised in the lawsuit are addressed to our satisfaction," Pisike wrote via email when contacted by ESPNcricinfo. "Members who registered in early 2021 now meets the constitutional one-year eligibility requirement. Chairmam [sic] who is reappointed as independent dir[ector] against the adopted process submitted his resignation."
USA Cricket made no mention of either board member's resignation in a press release on Monday night announcing that the Pisike & Salver lawsuit had been withdrawn. A USA Cricket spokesperson did not comment directly when asked about Marathe's resignation.
The credibility and stability of Marathe, who also serves as an executive vice-president for the NFL's San Francisco 49ers, and Higgins were seen as key reasons for USA Cricket's successful bid to become co-hosts for the 2024 ICC Men's T20 World Cup along with Cricket West Indies. But their absence - Higgins resigned as CEO in November - now leaves a significant leadership vacuum just over three years after USA Cricket was readmitted as an Associate member by the ICC and recognised as the official governing body in America following the expulsion of USACA in 2017.
Pisike is also looking to renegotiate a billion-dollar contract signed with American Cricket Enterprise (ACE) in 2019.
A copy of the agreement, which has been obtained by ESPNcricinfo, states that ACE keeps 95% of all cricket-related commercial revenue - including TV broadcast rights, sponsorship agreements and gate sales - generated for USA Cricket while USA Cricket keeps 5%. The agreement provides a minimum annual payment to USA Cricket from ACE - which is listed at $399,000 for 2022, meaning USA Cricket would need to generate $8 million in revenue before they would receive anything beyond the base level disbursement guaranteed by ACE - in the event that the 5% revenue figure does not reach that threshold, which it has not in the first three years of the deal.
"Also the majority of the board agreed to prioritise ACE contract negotiation which is pending for almost three years," Pisike said. "I personally think the current contract doesn't benefit USA Cricket or it's constituents hence we need [and] desire a contract that is good for all parties including ACE."
The current arrangement has left USA Cricket severely cash-strapped, especially since the cancellation of the ODI series against Ireland in December. That tour was projected to break even thanks to incoming sponsorship and broadcast revenue, but only if all of the scheduled two T20Is and three ODIs had gone ahead. The cancellation of the three ODIs because of Covid-19 meant that USA Cricket lost out on significant revenue for those matches, though the costs of stadium venue rentals, Covid testing fees and hotel rooms for the squads remained. According to multiple sources, that led to USA Cricket suffering a loss of between $200,000 to $250,000.
The domino effect of that financial hit has resulted in the board laying off numerous staff. USA Cricket announced late last week that they were not going to renew the contract of USA women's head coach Julia Price, preferring someone who is based in the USA full-time. Price, who recently served as head coach of the Warriors squad in the Fairbreak Invitational T20 event in Dubai, is based in Australia and had been traveling back and forth since her appointment just over three years ago.
Kirk Greaves, who was one of several independent contractors who also had their contracts terminated in recent months, has filed a lawsuit against the governing body claiming "racial discrimination" and is seeking $2 million in damages.
USA Cricket has also delayed announcing the scheduling of any domestic championships for 2022 due to financial constraints. USA's men's side is due to travel to Zimbabwe for the 2022 Men's T20 World Cup Qualifier B in July, but tentative plans for a slate of T20I fixtures to help prepare USA in the lead-up to that event may also be in doubt for financial reasons.

Peter Della Penna is ESPNcricinfo's USA correspondent @PeterDellaPenna