Can you tell us about yourself?
I was born in India, and I have been a resident of Southern California since 1985. I am in private practice in Santa Barbara, California, specializing in cosmetic and implant dentistry. I am married to Veena, and we have two children, Anita, a physician, and Samir, who is currently studying for his MBA at USC.

Atul Rai
Atul Rai was President of the USA Cricket Association from 2001 to 2003, who is currently running for the Club Director position.

Growing up in India as a kid, cricket was my passion, and I played cricket in school and college. However, professional education and career took priority. I continue to play the game even today with Masters Cricket USA.

What motivates you the most to become a USA national cricket administrator?
We have a huge potential in this country. The number of active players in the US is greater than some ICC Full member nations. I am excited to see the growing number of cricket leagues, clubs, and academies, with all the young boys and girls playing cricket. Kudos to all those parents and administrators for their hard work. USA Cricket should capitalize on this potential and utilize the large corporate sector in America to grow the game.

Which cricket league are you affiliated with, and what is your proudest achievement as an administrator?
I played cricket in Los Angeles as a member of the Southern California Cricket Association since the mid-’80s and eventually served on its Executive Board for several years, including as the President for eight years. I also served as the President of the USA Cricket Association from 2001 to 2003. I immediately started the National Junior and Youth development program, and we conducted the first-ever U19 National championships in 2003.

One of my proudest moments was when team USA won the Americas Championship in 2002 with a clean sweep that included a win against the defending champions Canada for the first time. The championship victory propelled the USA into the top tier of Associates, and the USA qualified to play in the Champions Trophy in 2004. Many people call it the Golden Era of Cricket in the USA!!

What’s your vision of where USA Cricket should be if you’re fortunate enough to be elected to the Board?
My vision is to make cricket a mainstream sport in America that people can watch on network/cable TV and provide opportunities for the American kids to play this wonderful game.

My Goals are 1) to create a large pool of talented youth cricketers who will ultimately form the core of the USA National men’s and women’s teams that will compete well against the best in the World and to have ICC recognize the USA as a Full Member and 2) to increase the brand value of USA Cricket and attract Corporate America to recognize and embrace the sport of cricket

In what ways do you see yourself contributing to any shared vision of the USA Cricket board?
One of the most important aspects of measuring progress and eventual success is for the organization to ensure that steps are taken to implement the necessary changes to reach the desired goals within the prescribed timelines. Unfortunately, USA Cricket has been seriously lagging on various sectors required to achieve those goals. I would like to see USA Cricket change the way it functions and place the emphasis where it is truly needed!

What are your thoughts on the current development of cricket in the USA?
Once again, it is truly disappointing that USA Cricket has done very little to help develop the game or to support the leagues, clubs, academies, and thousands of playing members who have been working hard to keep the game alive in the face of adversity! Our limited resources need to be used effectively and efficiently to attain the best results. Lack of attention to youth development is a prime example of it!

With Minor League and Major League cricket now taking center stage in USA cricket, what role do you see cricket at the domestic club and league levels playing in the growth path?
I was the chair of the Governing Council during the formation of the Minor League. My understanding is that Minor League teams are to work closely with the local cricket leagues and the players to facilitate a smooth operation with MiLC/ACE providing the funding for infrastructure development and other major expenses. Unfortunately, that has not been the case, and there is a disconnect between the local leagues and Minor League teams. The team owners have been heavily burdened financially and operationally!! Meanwhile, Major League franchise cricket that was due to have started last year is yet to see any progress, and I certainly don’t see MLC reaching out to the clubs and leagues to seek any help!!

For professional cricket to be sustainable in the long term, domestic cricket needs to be strong! A magnificent structure needs a strong foundation for it to last!

Last year, Minor League Cricket hurt the local club and league cricket, as many clubs were ‘robbed’ of their premier players to MiLC. How can that be avoided going forward?
Again, it is the disconnect that is hurting the game. Every player aspires to be the best and play at the highest level, and therefore, opportunities such as Minor League Cricket are good for the game. However, the many cricket leagues across the country that support domestic cricket need to be more involved to avoid such conflicts and ensure success.

What are your thoughts on growing women and youth cricket in the USA?
Unfortunately, this is an area that has been neglected and underfunded. Cricket cannot become mainstream by relying on foreign players. We need community-based cricket programs across America with corporate partnerships to create a large pool of young players and create pathways for these young players to continue playing the game by creating scholarships in colleges and universities. Further, our U19 squad should have a full-time coach with solid year-round programs, including high-level training, and some of these players can eventually be part of the USA-A team that also needs to be training and touring to add to our bench strength.

This upcoming election is long overdue by more than a year. Do you think that’s good governance, and do you have any specific thoughts on the issue?
It is poor governance, to put it mildly! The ICC formed the USA Cricket organization hoping that the governance issues that plagued the previous national organization would be in the past! It saddens me that USA Cricket has not created and published a simple membership database and conducted elections in two years. Three of the Directors on the Board, namely Ajith Bhaskar (Club Director), Suraj Viswanathan (Individual Director), and Nadia Gruny (Female Player Director) completed their terms in August of 2020 and continue to serve on the Board. While Nadia Gruny was nominated unopposed to be appointed to the Board, the other two must contest the elections that have been delayed due to inaction of the Board of which they are members, and they continue to make consequential decisions!! That is unacceptable!!

In conclusion, USA Cricket has been lacking on several fronts, and that has been a huge letdown! Lack of transparency and accountability is a serious issue for an organization trying to bring professional cricket to America! We need experienced leaders who are selfless with a singular goal to help the American cricketer with an effective plan that includes every member of the cricket community.