Cheema to captain Canada at ICC Americas T20
Allrounder Rizwan Cheema will captain Canada once again after he was chosen to lead a 14-man squad announced by Cricket Canada on Tuesday to tour USA for the ICC Americas Division One T20 tournament beginning May 3-10 in Indianapolis.
It will be Cheema's third stint as captain, having been in charge in 2010 as stand-in for an injured Ashish Bagai during the 2010 World T20 Qualifier and ICC Americas Division One before being named permanent captain for an 18-month stretch from March 2012 to August 2013. Cheema takes over this time from Jimmy Hansra, who led Canada at ICC WCL Division Two in Namibia this past January where they finished last and suffered relegation to Division Three.
Umar Nawaz, Durand Soraine, Parth Desai and Usman Limbada have all been dropped from Canada's squad that toured Namibia. In their place, Canada has recalled veteran seamer Khurram Chohan, legspinner Junaid Siddiqui, batting allrounder Saad Bin Zafar and left-arm spinner Farhan Malik.
Chohan and Siddiqui were both dropped following Canada's eighth place finish at the 2014 World Cup Qualifier in New Zealand, a result which cost Canada ODI status. Malik, 20, is a promising talent who made his senior team debut against Zimbabwe A in January and is one of four young Canada players in this squad to have been invited for a Caribbean Premier League trial in June. Zafar, 28, last played for Canada more than five years ago, scoring 18 against UAE at the World T20 Qualifier.
This will be the first time Canada has had to qualify through the Americas T20 tournament to secure a place at the World T20 Qualifier, which takes place in Ireland and Scotland this July. The top two teams in the double round-robin Americas event including Bermuda, Canada, Suriname and USA will advance to the global qualifier. Canada previously had been granted automatic qualification into the World T20 Qualifier by way of their ODI status for the 2008, 2010 and 2012 tournaments.
They were granted a spot in the 2013 World T20 Qualifier based on a top six finish in 2012 but have now been thrown back into the regional qualifying system after placing 12th at the global qualifier in 2013. The last time Canada played in the Americas tournament was in July 2011 when they went undefeated in Florida to claim the tournament title.
Canada's tour of the USA starts with three warm-up matches in Houston, Texas against an invitational XI on April 28, 29 and May 1. They will then travel to Indianapolis where they face Suriname for the start of the ICC Americas tournament on May 3 in the inaugural international fixture at the brand new World Sports Park.
Canada squad: Rizwan Cheema (capt.), Hamza Tariq (wk/vice-capt.), Khurram Chohan, Navneet Dhaliwal, Satsimranjit Dhindsa, Nikhil Dutta, Ruvindu Gunasekera, Jimmy Hansra, Nitish Kumar, Farhan Malik, Cecil Pervez, Junaid Siddiqui, Srimantha Wijeratne, Saad Bin Zafar
Peter Della Penna is ESPNcricinfo's USA correspondent. @PeterDellaPenna