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A Sticky Wicket for U.S. Cricket Leagues

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - The California Cricket Academy claims in court that the U.S. Cricket Association postponed mandatory elections and disenfranchised its members, to control the national board of directors of the world's second most-popular sport.

In their federal complaint, Ram Varadarajan and the California Cricket Academy claim the United States of America Cricket Association imposed new requirements on its leagues, without amending its constitution.

The association, with 48 member leagues from eight regions, was scheduled to hold elections for its board of directors last year, according to the complaint.

Varadarajan claims the USA Cricket Association first postponed an election in 2007, for which the International Cricket Council suspended it.

The defendant association adopted a written constitution and held elections in 2008, with board members to serve 3-year terms. But it delayed elections again in 2011 without amending its constitution, the plaintiffs say.

"Rather than proceed with a free national election, the board openly and defiantly violated the clear mandates of the USACA Constitution. The board unilaterally nullified legitimately held regional elections and initiated an eleventh-hour 'compliance audit' in a transparent attempt to reconfigure the electorate," according to the 22-page complaint.

The audit, begun in September 2011, 6 months after elections were to be held, required leagues to submit lease agreements, meeting minutes, finance spreadsheets and a host of other records, the complaint states.

"Leagues scrambled to collect documents, but the Herculean task was impossible for many," according to the complaint.

The association refused to hold elections until leagues completed the audit to its "satisfaction," the complaint states.

Preliminary results showed that none of the leagues fully complied with the audit, the plaintiffs say, but the board disenfranchised the California Cricket Academy - "perhaps the largest contributor to youth cricket - financially and logistically - in the United States" - and more than two-thirds of its members, nonetheless.

In December 2011, the association's board, after a closed-door meeting, announced that elections would be postponed again until "a majority of leagues, ideally at least 66 percent, are compliant," according to the complaint.

The league has scheduled a national election for April 14, but only 15 leagues have been authorized to cast ballots, the plaintiffs say.

The California Cricket Academy was deemed "not in compliance" and in "bad standing" by the association, though it appealed the decision, and its ability to attract players, fans and sponsors has been compromised, the plaintiffs say.

"Throughout this audit process, Mr. Varadarajan and CCA exhausted every conceivable avenue - formal and informal - to convince the USACA Board to abide by the law and hold the election required by the constitution. USACA flatly refused, taking the position that what is says goes - period. ...

"The members have been subject to months of a regime that has no right to continue its poor management of conflicted corporate affairs. Every day that goes by with the current board strong-arming its power is another day league members can never have back," the complaint states.

The defendants violated the USACA Constitution, New York General Laws governing nonprofits, and "every principle of free and fair elections," according to the complaint.

The defendant association was organized in New York and is based in Miami Beach.

The complaint states: "Cricket is the second most popular sport in the world [after soccer]. It is a bat-and-ball game played between two teams of 11 players. Similar to baseball, one team bats and tries to score as many runs as possible while the other team fields, trying to dismiss the batter, thereby limiting the runs scored by the batting team."

The game began in England in the 16th century and is the country's national sport. A cricket test match, the sport's original format, lasts five days.

Varadarajan, a Cupertino resident and nominee for USA Cricket Association president, and the California Cricket Academy seek declaratory and injunctive relief enjoining the association from disenfranchising league members who were in good standing before the audit, from holding elections with only 15 member leagues, and nullifying any regional elections held in 2011.

The plaintiffs are represented by James Pearl with O'Melveny & Myers of Los Angeles.

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