By Sam Sooppersaud
With the USACA Elections fast approaching, the cricket stakeholders, through and with, their respective Presidents, are debating as to who is the best candidate to lead USACA in the next three years. All five candidates who have declared their intention to seek the top job in our leading cricket body had announced that they intend to take USACA in a different direction. They promised glorious change. However, when asked to elaborate, (to give their response to the same ten questions I sent each of them), only two candidates found it wise to send me specific details of their program, should they be elected to the Presidency. The other three, either are still working on their programs, or they feel it is “their guarded secret.” Hey, remember the word TRANSPARENCY!
In a feature article I wrote on newyorkcricket.com on Friday, November 18th, I presented to you the readers, the program which presidential candidate Mahammad Qureshi furnished me. I am now doing the same on candidate Ram Varadarajan’s program. In a week or two I would come to you, the readers, through personal contact and the media, to elicit your take on what the candidates had to say. The feelings and intentions of the readers would then be made known in a follow-up article, along with any recommendation of a particular candidate. It is my hope that the candidates who have not responded to my questions do so now as it is in the candidates’ interest to let the electorate be fully aware of what they have to offer the cricket stakeholders in the USA.
Ram Varadarajan’s Program follows: Questions and his responses.
1. What, if any, is your major complaint of Gladstone Dainty as President of USACA?
I have said this before – I am not interested in people bashing. If you will permit me, I would like to answer this slightly differently, and comment on USACA’s leadership instead of focusing on a single person.
I feel that USACA management has lacked structure, professionalism, leadership and transparency. Over the last three years, we have not really seen a common vision. As a result, problems big and small remain unsolved. A consequence of all of this is that there is factionalism, confusion and despair among the cricket lovers, players, volunteers and elected officials. US cricket could have been taken to greater heights and our youth given the opportunities they deserved.
To sum things up, I think that the leadership has preferred an inward looking process rather than effective communications regarding decisions that impact the membership.
2. If elected President of USACA, what would you do differently to what Gladstone Dainty has done, good or bad?
In my view, USACA’s leadership should serve the leagues, and has to bring benefit of USACA actions to the membership. USACA must bring value to the leagues beyond just the right of its players to play for the region or for the USA.
I will ensure full transparency of USACA operations – the league presidents will be able to attend board meetings as observers, they will have full access to financials, Minutes and the like. Board meetings will be held on a rotating basis in the eight regions of USACA, thus bringing the governance of USACA up close to the membership.
More efficient communications are naturally very important, which means the President and the board must seek and take input, be open to criticism from league presidents and the broader cricket community.
As President, I will also set up programs to channel funds directly to the leagues. The leagues will also have the benefit of the expanded management team at USACA which will build relationships with NCCA, local governments, sponsors, ICC, grounds management, non-profit status management and the like.
I will help leagues get compliant with USACA norms and regulations. Staying compliant will be a strict requirement that I will enforce – uniformly and fairly. If certain leagues need assistance in achieving compliance my office will lend them a hand.
I will continue to maintain an excellent relationship with Cricket Holdings America. This is in USACA’s interest and also in the interest of the cricket community within the US. I will also continue and build on the relationship with the ICC and other international cricket bodies.
3. What ONE thing do you believe USACA needs to do to connect with all of the cricketers in the USA?
To connect with USA’s cricketers, USACA needs to be more inclusive, more responsive and more transparent. The first thing to do is to change the tone of governance. This can be achieved through a process of delineation, decentralization and ushering in transparency.
Delineation: Separation of executive management of USACA from cricket administration. The latter should be left to experts who should work without interference from the executive. The process of appointment of coaches, selectors, selection criteria, etc., these are administrative duties and these processes will be transparent and published. Also, we need to mend our fences with the ICC and seek their active financial and governance help in putting USACA back on track. I will introduce term limits: Presidents – maximum of two terms. Term limits are important for smart governance.
Decentralization: USACA has become a large organization and it needs organizational acumen befitting its size. I will delegate more to the VPs and other board members. Everyone in my team will have a well-established portfolio of duties and responsibilities with a clear expectation of accountability and ethics. I will also move decision-making and funds to the leagues and regions, as a rule. Decentralization also would mean that the administration would have to become more predictable – cricket calendars, board meetings and the like should be on a published schedule. Once again, none of this is rocket science; that is how successful organizations operate and I bring proven experience in this area.
Transparency: In my administration, all board meetings will have an open and closed session. Most of the cricket business can be discussed in open sessions. The open session will be open to all the league presidents. After all, the board is working on their behalf.
The structure, conduct and governance of this board will be no different than how it is done in all successful organizations globally. Also, in an effort to improve transparency, I will have Town Hall meetings every quarter so that the broader cricket community can come together, ask, criticize and learn.
4. How far are you prepared to go to show you are the leader of a transparent USACA? Publicly available Minutes of every meeting? Publicly available financial reports? Transparency for all key strategic matters and decision criteria?
Delineation, decentralization and transparency are core tenets of my plan for good governance. These will bring about positive changes. Minutes and finances must be available to all league presidents – there can be no question about that. I am prepared to go further. By opening up board meetings to league presidents to attend, I will make USACA an asset and friend of the leagues. Frequent and open communication will be a standard part of my administration. One example – take my plan of funding the leagues directly – this will be done by strategic dialog – USACA will set up guidelines say for starting youth programs or building turf wickets or reaching out to schools, expanding membership – then USACA would jointly figure out a plan with the leagues – say providing an up front payment, a measurement criteria for success and a bonus reward for achieving the objectives. I expect to discuss every major decision with the leagues.
5. Like Church and State, can the USACA board be separate from the selection of players to represent the USA?
Yes. Absolutely. I will ensure that there is separation of administrative function from cricket management function. The USACA board needs to be run like a professional organization by accomplished individuals with proven track records. The selection of players need to run by skilled cricketers, who have an eye to spot, support and groom talent. The president is the chief administrator not the chief selector. The selection process must also be clearly articulated and published – so that everyone has full knowledge and an even playing field. None of this is news for people who have been involved in professional, winning organizations. My goal would be to bring the same tried and tested models of success to cricket in the US and on a consistent basis.
6. Upon becoming President of USACA, what ONE thing would you do within the first three months of office, to show that a New and Improved” USACA is here?
As I mentioned, my focus immediately will be to improve confidence. I have a bold new plan for governance and leadership – through delineation, decentralization, and bringing about transparency.
Within two weeks of taking office, I will put forth a 90-day plan – it will spell out several items starting with “a state of the USACA.” Full disclosure to the league presidents – including full financial disclosure; a Town Hall with the cricket community in the US; a plan for the 2011 Men’s, U-15, U-19 and Women’s national tournaments, which have not been conducted yet; a plan for the appointment of a CEO; ICC outreach; portfolio assignment for each of the board members; a plan for an expanded management team; and a plan for immediate fund raising. On the 90th day – I will a have a board meeting with the league presidents to review progress against the items listed in the 90-day plan.
Such professionalism, inclusion and transparency have never been seen before in USACA. This will clearly demonstrate that there is a new, energized and improved USACA in action.
7. Now that you have declared your candidacy for president, do you have a slate in mind, if not, which two of the other four Executive positions do you see as being most important and which current stakeholders would you like to see in those two positions?
My focus is to earn the trust and respect of the leagues with regards to my candidacy for Presidency. Every position is important. I hope people will run for positions that they believe will allow them to best serve US cricket and it is up to the electorate to bring them into office.
I work well with all people – I will respect the will of the electorate and will lead the team that they select. I will build them into a cohesive team because of the strength of my ideas and the natural cohesion that transparency and good governance brings. I will in consultation with the entire board, assign portfolios to each of the board members – so everyone will be playing a key role in my administration.
My fellow contestants clearly care about cricket in the US and are willing to serve – I respect that – I would welcome them as part of my expanded management team – we can discuss the specific roles depending on their specific skills and time commitments.
8. What immediate plans would you and your board have for women and youth cricket?
The subject of youth and women’s cricket is close to my heart. I have personally toiled for development of youth cricket and my New Inning Foundation (www.newinning.org) is a small effort in that direction. I set up the first ever US national Town Hall meeting to get those working on youth cricket betterment to come together to share ideas.
There are several immediate steps that my administration will take – Two board members (one each) will be appointed as Special Chairs for Youth and Women programs. They will each chair a working group comprised of:
A coach of youth cricket and women’s cricket respectively.
Key advocates of US youth cricket and US women’s cricket respectively.
Present and past captains of the youth and women’s cricket respectively.
They will draw up a blueprint for immediate consideration by the board and will report periodically to the board.
USACA will take guidance on best practices from the ICC.
USACA will set-aside a portion of the annual budget for each of these activities.
USACA will appoint national coaches for youth and women’s teams. We will also offer incentives to regions to do the same – to work under the direction of the national coach.
USACA will set up a turf training facility for our youth and women’s teams for tournament preparation.
We will take cricket to the schools in the US – I will offer incentives to leagues to start youth programs and women’s programs. Leagues should take charge in promoting cricket among these groups – especially those that have never before played cricket in the U.S. The leagues will need help – financially and organizationally – that is what USACA will provide.
We will foster matches both nationally and in the region for improvement of youth and women’s’ cricket. A goal of a Top 4 finish in the 2020 World Cup should be a goal for both programs.
9. What role do you see USACA playing as part of an ever-improving Americas Region?
Within Americas, we should not settle for anything less than the #1 spot – not only in terms of cricket prowess, but also as an organization that is admired. That has to be a goal that we work towards.
USACA is the largest cricket country in terms of number of clubs, leagues and active players. We must now also become the leader by creating a world-class organization that is run by professionals and ensure a very strong support system for the cricketers to display their talent. I will ensure a merit-based system so that the best players represent team USA. Under my leadership, we will have top coaching facilities so that the teams have the best chance possible. I will also foster several bilateral matches in our region – I am confident, that under my leadership, USA Cricket will be #1 in the Americas Region.
10. Do you have at least a three year plan for USACA for the next term of office and would you be willing to engage the leagues in the further development of such a plan, with the aim of having them ‘buy in” and take ownership of such a plan?
Absolutely – I have a three-year plan. The specifics of the plan will be published on consultation with all the relevant stakeholders – rest of the USACA board and the league presidents. But I can give you the guiding principles of the plan:
Full transparency, professionalism and competence in administration and governance. We have to ensure that every boy and girl, man and woman is assured that they have the best chance to realize their cricket dream based solely on their skills and conduct.
To bring USACA to a strong financial situation,
To focus on grass roots improvements – facilities development and youth development
To fund the regions and leagues to execute at the local level
To bring cricket to the mainstream US society and to our schools and universities
To ensure that Team USA – men, women and youth – have the chance of playing to the best of their abilities.
There are expenses involved with the 3-year plan. I feel strongly that USACA can raise $3.5million as an annual budget.
USACA will have to set aside $1.5 million for central expense – conducting tournaments, expenses for CEO, coaches, and some facilities development. The remaining $2 million can then be earmarked for distribution to the leagues. Assuming, for ease of discussion; 50 USACA registered leagues – this amounts to $40,000 per league per year that USACA can make available. I am not suggesting a uniform distribution like that, but that just illustrated the kind of money that would be available. Working strategically with the leagues to find ways to maximize the impact of funds of this magnitude will be part of the cooperation that my administration will foster.
In summary, I believe that the time has come for cricket in the USA to benefit from fresh leadership – one that embodies vision, professionalism, transparency and trust. It is long overdue. Our leagues need it, our boys and girls; men and women deserve it. I feel uniquely qualified and am keen to step up to the call of the hour to serve cricket enthusiasts across the USA.