USA coach Pubudu Dassanayake has picked the team's batting as the area in need of the biggest improvement, heading into their first match at the World Cricket League Division Four - the ICC's 50-over tournament for Associates and Affiliates - in Los Angeles. USA lost the first two games in the recently-concluded Auty Cup against Canada, before chasing down 222 to win by two wickets in the final match. Dassanayake said they could have performed better with more consistency in the batting.
"It's always good to get a win going into the World Cricket League against Canada, but, overall, we could have done better in the first two games," Dassanayake told ESPNcricinfo. "Especially in the second game, we had a chance at winning. Overall, we were improving every game. First game, we were very low, did lots of mistakes. Second game, we were better, and [last game] I think bowling and fielding were up there. We want some good performance in the batting, but there are lots of areas to improve.
"The batting still needs to settle down. We have a very decent bowling attack. I'm happy about that. Fielding, there's a few things we need to fix, but I'm not that nervous because the guys are putting a lot of effort, and I'm pretty sure we'll get there. Batting, when you take the seven batters we have in the squad, they are quality, they can do the job. But, coming out from club cricket to this level may have made a huge impact."
Opening batsman Fahad Babar topped USA's scoring charts in the Auty Cup with 148 runs, including two half-centuries. But, apart from him, Akeem Dodson was the only member of the original squad to score a fifty in the series. Ravi Timbawala, who came in as a replacement player for Sunday's match and is currently not a part of USA's squad for WCL Division Four, had USA's best score with an unbeaten 73 in Sunday's win. Incidentally, Elmore Hutchinson, a left-arm medium pacer, topped the batting averages at 59, albeit with two unbeaten knocks of 21 and 37. Dassanayake said the players are still adjusting to the rigours of 50-over cricket, given most of their local leagues are 40-over competitions.
"They are used to playing a lot of 40-over cricket, so that mentality has to change. I think they're working hard towards that, but I would still say that we are slightly behind on those areas. Next 10 days, we're going to work hard and come to the level we want to be to win this tournament."
Dassanayake also said the team was affected by the absence of Timroy Allen and Ali Khan during the Auty Cup. Allen withdrew to attend to a personal matter, while Khan was nursing a left hamstring strain sustained at a five-day national camp in Indianapolis. Both are expected to return for Division Four, and Dassanayake was sure they'd make an impact.
"Timroy is going to be one of the most important players in this tournament for us. The last three games, after Srini [Santhanam] got injured, it was tough for us to balance the team. On Friday, we went with an extra bowler and were a batsman short. [Sunday], we played an extra batsman and were a bowler short. When you go like that, it's kind of a risk where we don't know how we're going to end up. I would say, on Friday, if we had that extra batsman, maybe we would have won that game in that 20 runs.
"So, Timroy coming into the team is going to solve a lot of issues. As a top allrounder, he can even bat early in the order, and he can contribute 10 overs. Ali is always, when somebody bowls at 135-plus at this level, is always going to be very effective. In these types of wickets and conditions, he is capable of picking up early wickets and then very good bowling in the death overs. I'm sure both of them are going to make a huge impact by coming into the XI."
Half of the USA squad secured enough time off work to stay on in Los Angeles after the Auty Cup, while the rest went home. They will return to Los Angeles on October 23 for five days of training ahead of their first Division Four game, against Bermuda on October 29. USA will also have a warm-up match on October 25 against a Southern California Cricket Association XI. Dassanayake is hopeful that he can maximise the time he has with the players and translate it into positive results.
"Even though we could have done better in the last three games, I'm confident with the talent and ability that I have with these 14 players, and I'm confident going into the tournament," Dassanayake said. "But in saying that, this team has to do certain things well to win that tournament, and I'm just trying to have time with these players. That's my toughest job."