Former USA captain Ibrahim Khaleel has laid stinging criticism on the USA team management after being dropped from the squad on Tuesday. He said officials had failed to mediate a simmering dispute between him and other senior players that boiled over while the team was in North Carolina during their recent championship run at the ICC World T20 Sub Regional Americas Qualifier.
"I was probably blindsided," Khaleel told ESPNcricinfo, reacting to his sacking which was communicated to him in a video conference on Monday by USA head coach Pubudu Dassanayake and USA Cricket project officer Wade Edwards. "I told them you should have given me the opportunity to sit with the players when you knew there was something going on. I should at least have that option of talking to players one-on-one, face-to-face.
"This is not like a school team or a club team where you just sit in a different room and [I] sit in a different room. There's always conflict and misunderstanding in teams. It was yours and Wade's responsibility to call me and talk to me and figure this thing out or call the players also. Whoever has spoken to you about x, y and z things, you should have called them and be a mediator to solve this thing. That's how a professional team behaves, to me at least. If they think this is professional to them, then I'm okay with it."
According to Khaleel, he was told by Dassanayake and Edwards that the main reason he was dropped - not just from the captaincy but entirely from the squad - was because of "personal issues with players". It contradicted a USA Cricket press release that stated Khaleel was left out due to performance.
When asked if he felt he merited a spot in the team based on his batting, Khaleel said his scoring output was "average" and that it had come up during his video conference with Dassanayake and Edwards, but that it was not the primary factor in his removal.
Khaleel claimed he first sensed trouble after the team's dramatic two-wicket win over Canada on September 25. While the team was celebrating after Steven Taylor hit 22 runs off the final over to clinch victory, Khaleel said the mood around the squad was different by the time everyone got back to the hotel.
"Nobody told me anything but I could sense something was wrong," Khaleel said. "I told coach I think there's something going on but it's better if you check and he said we'll talk about it after the tournament."
Khaleel also said he was informed by officials this week that his decision to under bowl certain players caused him to lose support within the team, though he refused to name anyone when asked who had raised complaints against him.
"In Canada vs USA, [Canada spinner] Saad [Bin Zafar] also didn't get bowling," Khaleel said. "He only bowled one over the whole match. It doesn't mean Saad is a bad bowler. I probably feel because of that, things got aggravated.
"As a captain, you have to take some hard decisions on the ground. You cannot be biased to anybody. So I did whatever was best for the team in my knowledge and if something wrong was happening on the field then we wouldn't have been No. 1."
Khaleel was rested from the XI a day later when USA beat Belize to clinch first place, but said he was called to a meeting with Dassanayake, Edwards and team manager Kerk Higgins later at the team hotel, where he was first told of concerns raised by other senior players.
"They said, 'Somebody has to go because we cannot move forward like this,'" according to Khaleel. "'This thing cannot go on like this if your captaincy is not effective on the ground.'
"Just because a few players don't bind into roles, how will that effect things on the ground? If you think this was happening for a long time, even if there were misunderstandings or conflict, we still got results."
ESPNcricinfo made multiple attempts to speak with Dassanayake, Edwards and chairman of selectors Ricardo Powell regarding Khaleel's sacking but USA Cricket did not make anyone available for comment.