Ben Sennik quitting as head of Cricket Canada

By RON FANFAIR

Ben Sennik seemed relieved last week when he announced he was stepping down as president of Cricket Canada on June 30.

He said he felt the time was right to pass on the baton because he wanted to spend more quality time with his family, which includes five grand-children, and concentrate more on the expanding family-owned manufacturing and trading business, founded by his grandfather in 1898 in Kenya, which demands extensive traveling overseas.

He also said he had lost his enthusiasm and feeling for the administration of the sport.

“I was not enjoying it anymore,” he told Share. “I got the best sleep in months on the night after I made my decision to step down because I would get up about 10 times some nights trying to work out issues related to Canadian cricket. Now, I don’t have to do that anymore.”

Sennik also does not have to deal with a non-confidence vote that he and Cricket Canada faced from the provincial directors in five of the nine provinces – British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan. Some directors were not pleased that players in their constituencies were not being selected to represent Canada. They might have been unaware that teams were selected on merit and not on proportional representation.

Others, on the other hand, questioned Cricket Canada’s decision to send national players to participate in a high performance training camp in Colombo, Sri Lanka in preparation for last April’s World Cup qualifier in South Africa. Surprise suicide attacks in Colombo killed four people while the squad was there.

Criticism against Sennik escalated after he fired chief executive officer, Atul Ahuja, last January and then first-vice president, Mohan “Mike” Kendall, suddenly resigned a few weeks later while Sennik was out of the country on business.

Kendall, who is also the Ontario Cricket Association president and this province’s director, claimed he was frustrated with the way the sport has been governed, adding there’s “substantial difference of opinion on important policy matters and the direction of leadership under Sennik’s leadership.”

And, last March, protestors – some of them women – showed up with placards outside the hotel where the annual general meeting took place, expressing frustration with what they perceived to be indecisive leadership.

A source close to Cricket Canada also suggested that Sennik’s interference in the politics of provincial cricket might have led to his sudden resignation.

Sennik dismissed the accusations, claiming that none of the above or health concerns had to do with his decision to step down before the next AGM in December. He also made it clear he was not pushed out by the International Cricket Council (ICC) because of the non-confidence threat hanging over his head.

“Absolutely not,” he said vehemently. “As I said before, I was not having fun in the position and I thought it would be best to step down at this time and let a new team take over…This was not an easy decision. However, after reviewing what we have been able to jointly achieve and recognizing what lies ahead for all of us on the cricket scene, I believe the time is right for me to pass the responsibility as president of Cricket Canada to other hands.”

First vice-president Ranjit Saini will assume the role until the AGM.

Sennik made his first appearance on the local cricket scene in the late 1980s and played a key role in helping the United Way of Greater Toronto raise over $800,000 through an international limited-overs match at SkyDome 20 years ago.

He successfully contested Cricket Canada’s presidency for the first time in late November 2003 at a period when the sport was in crisis. The national program did not succeed in building on the momentum gained by staging the ICC Trophy tournament here in the summer of 2001, with both the government and private sector failing to embrace the sport.

With Sennik at the helm, the sport has become financially healthier and stable. But the game’s development has stagnated, especially in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) which produces the majority of the national players.

Canada has, however, qualified for two World Cups, finished runner-up in the 2004 and 2006-2007 Intercontinental Cup tournaments and reached the final of this year’s World Cup qualifier. The Under-15 side captured the Americas championship last year and the national women won the Americas Cup crown in 2008 and 2009.

In addition, Canada has secured the right to host the 2012 Under-19 World Cup and Cricket Canada has developed long-term partnerships with several corporate partners, including Scotiabank, and procured funding and recognition from the federal government.

Sennik will represent Canada at this month’s ICC annual conference at Lords before he steps down at the end of the month.

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