Massiah steps down as USA captain
Steve Massiah has stepped down as USA captain on Thursday after seven years in the role for his adopted country. Massiah, 34, made his debut for USA in 2000 after moving from his native Guyana and led USA since the start of the 2006 ICC Americas Division One tournament in Canada following the departure of Richard Staple when USA finished 10th at the 2005 ICC Trophy in Ireland.
"In recent months, I have found myself thinking that it was time for a change at the top, for a new voice to lead our team," Massiah said in a USACA press release. "I have been honoured and humbled to serve as national captain. At this time I extend my most sincere gratitude and thanks to the selection committee, coaches, administration and team-mates for their continued support and trust through the years. I feel that now is the time for someone else to take up the reins and for me to focus on doing the very best that I can to perform in [the World Twenty20 Qualifier]."
Massiah compiled a 33-17 record with four no results while leading USA in 50-over matches and had an 8-6 record as USA's Twenty20 captain from 2010-2011. His tenure was marked by a series of peaks and valleys with USA posting impressive victories against higher-class opposition, including wins over Scotland at the 2010 World Twenty20 Qualifier and Canada in the final of the 2010 ICC Americas Division One Twenty20 championship, balanced out by costly stumbles at crucial moments in World Cup qualification tournaments.
His highest score as a USA player came in his first match as captain, scoring 136 not out in a 106-run win over Cayman Islands in 2006. Despite scoring several centuries in pre-tournament warm-up matches for USA, the ton against Cayman Islands would be his only one as captain in an official match. He produced steady contributions, with 1575 runs at an average of 40.38 as captain in 50-over cricket for USA, a shade higher than his career 50-over average for USA of 38.34.
Massiah's best tournament as captain came in 2010 at ICC World Cricket League Division Five in Nepal where he scored four half-centuries in six matches and was the tournament's leading scorer as USA gained promotion into Division Four, which they won in Italy later that year. His other successes include an undefeated championship run in Florida at the 2008 ICC Americas Division One tournament and leading USA to the inaugural ICC Americas Division One Twenty20 championship in Bermuda in 2010 where they defeated Canada in the final by five wickets.
However, there were also some demoralizing losses in his tenure. As part of USA's suspension by the ICC in 2007, they were dropped from Division Three to Division Five of the World Cricket League. When the suspension was lifted, USA entered Division Five in 2008 as one of the favourites and cruised through the group stage undefeated only to suffer a shock upset by 84 runs in the semi-final at the hands of Jersey. Afghanistan defeated Nepal in the other semi-final and beat Jersey in the final to begin their meteoric rise through Associate and Affiliate cricket.
By 2011, USA had progressed back to Division Three and romped past host side and eventual tournament champion Hong Kong on day one of the tournament. On day two though, a stunning collapse against Denmark snowballed into defeats to Papua New Guinea and Italy resulting in relegation to Division Four.
Massiah's last tournament in charge of USA was at ICC World Cricket League Division Three in May. USA won their first three matches and only needed victory in either of their final two round-robin games to clinch a spot in the 2014 World Cup Qualifier. However, a loss to Uganda was followed by a dramatic defeat against Bermuda, a regional rival they had not lost to in a tournament since 2005. Nepal's win over Italy on the same day allowed them to leapfrog USA on net run rate and join Uganda as the two teams progressing to the qualifier next year in New Zealand.
Massiah's own form had been poor recently with an average of just 22.36 in his last 12 games across Division Four in Malaysia and Division Three in Bermuda. With a spot in the World Cup Qualifier at stake, Massiah was dismissed without scoring against Bermuda. He averages 11.00 in 14 Twenty20 matches for USA and now that he is no longer captain there is no guarantee that he will be picked in USA's squad for the World Twenty20 Qualifier in the UAE which runs from November 15-30.
USACA are yet to announce Massiah's replacement as captain, but the favourite for the role is Orlando Baker, who captained USA when they compiled an 8-0 streak in the 2013 ICC Americas Division One Twenty20 tournament in Florida in March. Baker, 34, has played for USA since 2008 and is one of the few veterans left in a squad that has experienced significant turnover in the last two years. Neil McGarrell, 41, may also have an outside chance if USACA takes the view to have him as a stop-gap appointment to allow time for a younger player to be groomed to take over the role in 2015, which is when USA are next scheduled to participate in an ICC tournament.
Peter Della Penna is a journalist based in New Jersey