Massiah back as USA captain for WCL Division 4
Steve Massiah, who missed the World Twenty20 Qualifier in March after a legal battle starting late in 2011 forced him to surrender his passport to US federal authorities, has received a USA recall. Massiah was named captain once again, in the 14-man USA squad selected for the ICC World Cricket League Division Four that will be played in Malaysia from September 3-10.
Massiah, 33, was arrested in November along with two other men in connection with an alleged $50 million dollar mortgage fraud scheme run by New York real estate broker Ed Ahmad. Massiah's arrest warrant was issued for allegedly defrauding banks and mortgage companies by falsifying mortgage loan applications. Such charges could have carried a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, and bail for Massiah was set at $150,000. His travel was restricted to New York, although he received special permission to play at a cricket tournament in Florida in December.
Court documents show that Massiah's attorney was engaged in plea negotiations for at least three months. Massiah was never indicted and the federal complaint against him and his two co-defendants was eventually dismissed on March 19. Sources claim that attorneys for the three men completed a plea deal to avoid trial and potential jail time.
With Massiah's case resolved, it opened the door for his return to the national team. According to sources, a USA Cricket Association board meeting was held last month to discuss whether or not he should be named captain again. The decision was made to restore him to the position, which had been filled by Sushil Nadkarni in March at the Twenty20 Qualifier in the UAE. Nadkarni, 36, will serve as the vice-captain on the tour to Malaysia.
Also returning to the squad are three other veterans who have missed recent tournaments either due to work obligations or injury - Timroy Allen, Rashard Marshall and Aditya Thyagarajan. Most notable among them is Thyagarajan, USA's leading run-scorer in 2010. Thyagarajan, 33, has not played for USA since January 2011 when he suffered a severe right knee dislocation against Denmark at ICC World Cricket League Division Three in Hong Kong. After a lengthy rehabilitation process, he has finally been declared fit to come back to the national team.
The return of such key veterans, particularly in the batting department, will be vital for USA in an evenly-matched tournament field that includes Denmark, Malaysia, Nepal, Singapore and Tanzania. The competition in Malaysia may actually prove to be more grueling than what lies ahead in Division Three. The top two finishers from Division Four will be promoted to join Bermuda, Italy, Oman and Uganda in Division Three, which is scheduled to take place in Bermuda from April 28-May 5, 2013, according to a USACA press release.
Wicketkeeper Akeem Dodson is the other player earning a recall after missing out on selection for the Twenty20 Qualifier when USA opted to hand a new cap to Nauman Mustafa, 37, behind the stumps rather than persist with the still developing Dodson, 24. However, Mustafa was stripped of the keeping duties one match into the tournament after a disastrous debut against Uganda. He was given an opportunity to atone later in the event but he never lived up to his domestic reputation with the bat, was sloppy with the gloves and as a result has been axed. Adil Bhatti, Asif Khan, Andy Mohammed, Japen Patel and Gowkaran Roopnarine are the others who have been dropped.
Dodson is one of five players in the squad to have represented USA at an ICC U-19 World Cup and is also one of two America-born players in the squad along with Steven Taylor, 18. Taylor was impressive for USA on the tour to the UAE in March. He scored 40 off 30 balls in USA's seven-wicket upset win over Scotland and finished second on the runs charts behind Nadkarni at the Twenty20 Qualifier.
Peter Della Penna is a journalist based in New Jersey