A number of former administrators from both the American Cricket Federation and the ICC-expelled USA Cricket Association (USACA) are among those in the running for seven constituent board positions of the game’s new governing body in the country, USA Cricket. Among those up for election for the first time are former USA captain Sushil Nadkarni and his longtime team-mate Usman Shuja, USA’s leading wicket-taker in one-day cricket. The duo played their final tour together for USA in 2014.
Nadkarni, 41, played nine years for USA beginning in 2006 after migrating from Pune, India, having previously played for India Under-19s as an opening batsman as well as a brief first-class career with Maharashtra. Since retiring, he has been actively involved in youth coaching in the Houston area where he has opened his own programme, Master Strokes Cricket Academy, and has been on one of the ICC’s four USA advisory groups appointed in May 2016. In a professional capacity, Nadkarni is a partner at environmental resource consulting firm ERM.
Nadkarni is running for the position of League Director representative in a competitive field holding four other candidates. Among them is ex-USACA president Atul Rai, who headed the now expelled governing body from 2001-2003 before he was ousted by Gladstone Dainty, who has served as USACA president ever since. Rai is a dentist based in Southern California, and is currently president of the Southern California Cricket Association, his second stint in the role.
Lesly Lowe, the founder and only president of the Commonwealth Cricket League since 1982, is also running. The New York league currently has 81 clubs, making it the largest league in America, though only five actually registered with enough members to be eligible to vote in the upcoming election.
Mark Demos, a Zimbabwe native who is credited as a co-founder of the Northwest Cricket League in Seattle in 1998 but now lives in Dallas, Texas, is also in the mix along with Shuja Khan. Khan, who is the founder and president of the Philadelphia Cricket League and a vice-president with Muhammad Qureshi’s Cricket Council USA, is also running for League Director.
Florida-based Qureshi, who unsuccessfully attempted to dethrone Dainty on multiple occasions in failed USACA presidential bids, is one of seven candidates for the Club Director position. Another is American Cricket Federation (ACF) executive secretary John Aaron, the New York administrator who served in the same position with USACA starting in 2008 before being thrown out by the Dainty-led board in 2011. Aaron is a high-profile candidate along with former ACF board member Masaood Yunus, a former president of the Minnesota Cricket Association and current president of Strykers Cricket Club in the Minneapolis suburb of Eden Prairie.
The largest pool of candidates lies in the battle for the Individual Director slots on the board, with ten people running for three available positions. The most prominent name is Texas resident Brian Walters, who spent two years on the USACA board after winning election in 2012. Walters served as the head of the USACA Governance Committee but resigned in March 2014 in frustration over the Dainty-led board’s refusal to adopt constitutional reforms recommended in a USACA commissioned report compiled by TSE Consulting.
Three current or former ACF board members are also in the running for Individual Director positions: New Jersey’s Avinash Gaje, who runs the largest softball cricket league in the northeast with more than 100 competing clubs; Indianapolis youth coach Jatin Patel; and Orange County (California) Cricket Association president Shantha Suraweera. Also on the list is St Louis, Missouri, administrator Ajay Jhamb, who, like Nadkarni, Aaron, Yunus, Walters and Shuja was a member of one of the four ICC advisory groups.
Shuja, 39, is the only candidate running unopposed within any of the categories for a board position, meaning he will be the first person to serve as Elite Male Athlete representative on the USA Cricket board. The Austin, Texas, resident holds an MBA from the prestigious Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and after previously working for Boston Consulting Group is now a general manager at tech start-up SparkCognition, which specialises in artificial intelligence systems.
According to multiple sources, other USA players did show initial interest in putting their name forward as candidates for the Elite Male Athlete position. But others withdrew from formal consideration once it emerged that Shuja had put his name forward in order to give him their support. Such is the respect in which he is held both as a player and in a professional career capacity.
The race for the Elite Female Athlete position is down to two candidates: current USA women’s team-mates Nadia Gruny and Erica Rendler. Gruny, 34, is originally from Trinidad & Tobago but came to the USA after being recruited to play NCAA Division One level soccer at South Carolina State University. Rendler, 37, is the only American-born candidate in any category, growing up as a two-sport high school athlete in San Jose, California. She is a former NCAA Division One athlete on the field hockey team at the University of California-Berkeley and made her USA women’s cricket debut in 2010.