USA's quest to qualify for their first Under-19 World Cup since 2010 has begun to take shape with the announcement of a preliminary squad of 30 for the 2016-17 season and with 14 players chosen to play for USA Under-17 in a tri-series against Bermuda and Canada in Houston, Texas from July 14 to 19.
Five players from USA's third-place team at the 2015 Under-19 World Cup Qualifier in Malaysia - Mohak Buch, Vivek Narayan, Gaurav Patanker, Arjun Patel and Sahil Patel - were included in the squad of 14 for Texas. 2015 USA Under-19 captain Alex Shoff was included in the preliminary squad, but he was not available for the Texas tri-series.
Two of the most notable newcomers are northern California wicketkeeper Maulin Vajir - who along with Narayan was named co-MVP of the 2014 USACA Under-15 National Championship - and Dallas bowler Karthik Lappathi, the Best Bowler winner from the same tournament. Vajir is one of seven players in the squad from California. Batsman Raymond Ramrattan joins Narayan as one of two players from New Jersey.
Lappathi's fellow Texan, left-arm spinner Saad Humayun from Austin, also made the squad, so did Sam Das, who was chosen from the remote cricket outpost of Jonesboro, Arkansas. Das plays in the same Arkansas-Tennessee Cricket League team as new USA national selection chairman Ricardo Powell and was highly regarded by evaluators at the Houston Combine held in May, with one describing the left-arm quick as "the best I've seen at that age group".
Two players were also selected from the newly-crowned champions of the NY PSAL high school cricket league, John Adams High School. Batsman Alix Husain and John Adams captain Richie Balkarran were tabbed for inclusion. Balkarran, a junior allrounder, was named MVP of the 2016 PSAL championship match at Baisley Pond Park after taking 4 for 6 in John Adams' win over FDR for the title. Balkarran took 14 wickets and scored 127 runs in four playoff matches, which also included a haul of 6 for 13 and 85 with the bat in the semi-finals against Abraham Lincoln.
The tri-series in Texas will be a double round-robin with each team playing a total of four 50-over games. It will be played at the recently-opened Moosa Cricket Stadium, a private facility built by local businessman and former USA national team sponsor Sakhi Muhammad in the south Houston suburb of Pearland.
According to a media release, USA did not name a head coach and will instead use local coaches from the Houston area to oversee the team. Of those in the Houston area, former USA captain Sushil Nadkarni, who was utilised as an Under-17 talent evaluator during the Houston Combine in May, is one of the leading options. USA national selector Asif Mujtaba, based in Dallas, will also be present during the series.
USA Under-17 squad: Ozair Ahmed, Richie Balkarran, Mohak Buch, Sam Das, Saad Humayun, Alix Husain, Karthik Lappathi, Vivek Narayan, Gaurav Patankar, Arjun Patel, Sahil Patel, Aravind Patnam, Raymond Ramrattan, Maulin Vajir