Baker to captain USA at ICC Americas Twenty20
Veteran allrounder Orlando Baker has been named captain of a new-look USA team for next month's ICC Americas Division One Twenty20 tournament in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. This is the second time 33-year-old Baker will lead the country after he served as captain during the WICB Cup 50-over tournament in Guyana in 2008.
Nine players who participated in the 2012 ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier in the UAE are not in the current 14-man squad, which will play a double round-robin series against Bahamas, Bermuda, Cayman Islands and Suriname from March 18-25. The top two teams from the ICC Americas event will advance to the 16-team ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier which will be played in the UAE later this year.
Naseer Jamali, Nicholas Standford, Timothy Surujbally, Karan Ganesh and Danial Ahmed find a place in the squad for the ICC qualifying tournament after making their senior team debuts in the Auty Cup series against Canada in November last year. Ahmed, a left-arm orthodox spinner who plays club cricket in the Washington, D.C. area, was the most impressive debutant in the series and appears to have ended USA's search for a frontline spinner who can turn the ball away from right-handed batsmen.
Legspinner Saqib Saleem is the only player in the squad for the ICC Americas event who is uncapped at a senior level. He is part of a spin-heavy bowling unit along with Ahmed, off-spinner Abhimanyu Rajp and left-arm orthodox spinners and allrounders Ryan Corns and Barrington Bartley. If Saleem plays, he will be the ninth player to be capped at the senior level from a very rich crop of junior players that played in the 2010 ICC U-19 World Cup in New Zealand. Saleem was among the top 10 among wicket-takers in that tournament.
According to sources, several veteran players could not get enough time off work to participate in the ICC Americas tournament, thus giving the younger players a chance to stake their claim in the national team. Sushil Nadkarni, who captained USA at last year's World Twenty20 Qualifier and was the team's leading scorer in that event and the ICC World Cricket League (WCL) Division Four in Malaysia last September, is one of several players missing out due to work-related issues.
Other national team regulars, such as longtime captain Steve Massiah, Usman Shuja, Timroy Allen, Muhammad Ghous and Aditya Thyagarajan have also faced difficulty getting time off work.
With the ICC Americas event and the ICC (WCL) Division Three being scheduled within five weeks of each other, players have been forced to choose between the two considering difficulties taking leave off work in such a short time to participate in both events.
Nadkarni, Massiah, Shuja, Allen, Ghous and Thyagarajan are all expected to be named in USA's squad for ICC WCL Division Three after being part of the squad that helped USA gain promotion from ICC WCL Division Four last year. All six have all been named in a 17-man squad that will play three, 50-over matches against Bermuda in Florida on March 26, 28 and 29 after the ICC Americas tournament. A USACA spokesman stated that more players may be added to the 50-over squad for Bermuda if they impress during the ICC Americas event.
The most surprising omission from both the Twenty20 and 50-over squads is Aditya Mishra, who served as vice-captain of the team last year in UAE. Mishra scored 62, the highest individual score for USA in the World T20 Qualifier, as an opener in a seven-wicket win over Scotland. He also scored a half-century in a hard-fought loss to Namibia, who were undefeated in the group stage. The right-hand batsman had a role in nine of the team's ten highest partnerships during the tournament. However, his exclusion may have to do with his poor performance at the ICC World Cricket League Division Four in Malaysia last September.
USA T20 squad for ICC Americas Division One: Orlando Baker (captain), Danial Ahmed, Barrington Bartley, Ryan Corns, Akeem Dodson (wk), Karan Ganesh, Elmore Hutchinson, Naseer Jamali, Japen Patel, Abhimanyu Rajp, Saqib Saleem, Nicholas Standford, Timothy Surujbally, Steven Taylor (wk).
USA 50-over squad for three matches vs. Bermuda: Danial Ahmed, Timroy Allen, Barrington Bartley, Ryan Corns, Karan Ganesh, Muhammad Ghous, Elmore Hutchinson, Naseer Jamali, Rashard Marshall, Steve Massiah, Sushil Nadkarni, Japen Patel, Abhimanyu Rajp, Usman Shuja, Timothy Surujbally, Steven Taylor (wk), Aditya Thyagarajan.
Peter Della Penna is a journalist based in New Jersey