Under-19 World Cup January 6, 2006

USA hit the road

After months of delays and uncertainties, preparations for the USA team for the Under-19 World Cup in Sri Lanka are moving forward, and on a relatively fast track.

The most visible sign that things might be changing came with the announcement that Ashok Patel of the Cricket Academy of New Jersey was to manage the side. Patel had won the ICC worldwide Global Development Award for innovative programming, for a self-financing model for international junior tours which his academy has regularly conducted for the past few years. His appointment strengthens the management of the U-19 tour to a considerable extent, and with Larry Gomes as coach and Basil Butcher junior as physio, the administrative team looks far stronger than any previous USACA touring squads have enjoyed.

The final squad of 14 was announced on schedule, and appears to be much the same as the one which performed so brilliantly in the Americas U-19 qualifiers in Canada a few months ago. This seems to have been a sensible decision on the selectors' part. Keeping the victorious unit more or less intact may work to keep the spirit and momentum going, and this is clearly what the USA Cricket Association is counting on.

The squad's mettle is to be tested almost immediately, in a series of matches against a USACA "A" team led by Steve Massiah, arguably among the best cricketers in the USA. Two 50-over matches and a 20-over match between the teams are to be played at the Brian Piccolo Park in Florida, site of the recent MLC Interstate tournament.

The team will not get much rest after this grueling weekend; it is scheduled to leave for India the following week, where they will play a series of matches against teams selected by the Hyderabad Cricket Association, one of the premier state cricket associations of India. They should be arriving in Sri Lanka with a great deal of match experience over a relatively short period, which will hopefully stand them in good stead when they face their first-round opponents from Australia, the West Indies and New Zealand.

This is the USA's first foray into a World Cup tournament, and a lot of hopes for the future are riding on their performances. Nobody is expecting them to win their first-round matches, but creditable performances against the best teams in the World Cup may go a long way towards dispelling some of the doom and gloom that hangs around US cricket these days, and give US cricketers something to look forward to for the future.

The two squads announced by USACA for the matches at Brian Piccolo Park from January 10 to 14 are as follows:

USA U-19 squad Hemant Punoo (capt) NYR, Abhemanyu Rajp SWR, Ravi Timbawala SWR, Sumon Bari NYR, Akeem Dodson NYR, Dunae Nathaniel SER, Mohammad Rehman SWR, Dominic Audain NYR, Romeno Deane AR, Nisarg Patel SWR, Kumar Ramsabad NYR, Mrunal Patel SWR, Anil Deopersaud SER, and Alexandrino Kirton NYR,

USACA A Steve Massiah (capt) NYR, Jignesh Desai SWR, Akhil Pathan NYR, Shuja Usman CWR, Barrington Bartley NYR, Imran Awan AR, Gowkaran Roopnarine AR, Shawn Riley SER, Renardo Francis SER, Twain Walter NER, Tim Allen SER, Zeyed Imtiaz CER, Karan Ganesh NYR, Safie SWR/NWR, and Jed AR.

Deb K Das is Cricinfo's correspondent in the USA