Two former India U-19s, ex-WI batsman Marshall named in USA squad
Xavier Marshall, the 31-year-old Jamaican who played seven Tests for the West Indies from 2005 to 2009, is in line to make his USA debut after being named in a 14-man touring squad to Antigua for the West Indies Regional Super50 beginning January 31. Two other noteworthy names who may join him in donning the red, white and blue for the first time are former India U-19 representatives Saurabh Netravalkar and Sunny Sohal, who have also been given squad call-ups.
Marshall also played 24 ODIs, averaging just 17.85, and six T20Is for the West Indies after making his international debut against Australia in January 2005. At one time, he held the record for most sixes in an ODI, striking 12 during his career-best 157 not out against Canada in 2008 to break a mark of 11 that had been jointly held by Sanath Jayasuriya and Shahid Afridi. His last international came during the 2009 World Twenty20 in a semi-final against Sri Lanka at The Oval. He continued playing first-class cricket for Jamaica until the spring of 2013 before migrating to New York.
Marshall would not be the first member of his family to play for USA. His cousin, Rashard Marshall, migrated from Jamaica in the early 2000s to New York and rose to prominence in 2006 by striking 90 off 56 balls for a USA Select XI against an unofficial West Indies XI captained by Brian Lara in Brooklyn. He made his official USA debut in 2008 and went on to play 42 one-dayers and seven T20s. Rashard sits sixth overall on USA's career runs list in one-day cricket but the 35-year-old has not been picked since 2013 WCL Division Three in Bermuda.
The younger Marshall is the latest in the pipeline of former West Indies internationals who have had second careers playing for the USA. They include Sew Shivnarine, Faoud Bacchus, Clayton Lambert, Hamish Anthony, Adam Sanford, Neil McGarrell and Jermaine Lawson. His selection comes courtesy of another former West Indies international, Ricardo Powell, who is USA's chairman of selectors.
Netravalkar, a 26-year-old left-arm seam bowler, toured New Zealand with the India Under-19s for the 2010 Under-19 World Cup and gained notoriety in 2014 for developing a cricket player analysis app called CricDecode. He initially came to the USA in 2015 to attend graduate school at Cornell University in upstate New York. He has since moved to northern California where he works for Oracle and has been a regular on the playing circuit for Marin CC in the San Francisco Bay Area, a club which is home to several former USA players.
Netravalkar also commutes to Los Angeles to play for Vijayta CC in the Southern California Cricket Association where he is club team-mates with Timil Patel, Mrunal Patel, Nisarg Patel, who have all been retained from the USA squad that toured the UAE and Oman in December. Netravalkar came onto the national selection radar last May when he took 2 for 30 in nine overs playing for an SCCA XI that defeated a USA XI in a warm-up match for the national side in Los Angeles ahead of their tour to Uganda for WCL Division Three.
Sohal, 30, came through Punjab's age group teams before being drafted into the India Under-19s in 2007 for a quadrangular series in Malaysia against Sri Lanka, England and Malaysia. He played 21-first-class matches for Punjab, scoring 1202 runs at an average of 36.42 including three centuries. He was picked up by Kings XI Punjab for the inaugural season of the IPL in 2008 and played 22 matches in four seasons with Kings XI and Deccan Chargers.
Sohal's most productive season was 2011 with Deccan when he scored 249 runs in 11 matches at an average of 24.90 with two fifties including a career-best 62 off 41 balls opening the batting in a win over Delhi Daredevils. But that wound up being his final IPL season. He played just two more matches in state cricket, a pair of one-day matches for Punjab in 2014, before migrating to Maryland where he has been a consistent scorer in the Washington Cricket League for the past several years.
A fourth debutant in the squad is wicketkeeper-batsman Jaskaran Malhotra. The 28-year-old played age group cricket in India representing Himachal Pradesh from Under-15 level through Under-22s. He played his last representative match for their Under-22 side in October 2011 in the CK Nayudu Trophy. Malhotra made his unofficial debut for USA last August in a pair of 12-a-side exhibitions against Caribbean Premier League sides Jamaica Tallawahs and St Kitts and Nevis Patriots in Florida.
USA's ability to select so many debutants who are not citizens and have only been residents in the country for a relatively brief period of time was made possible due to a change in the ICC's player eligibility regulations that was approved by the ICC board late last year. The previous guidelines stated that eligible players must be passport holders or seven-year residents of a country in order to represent a given national team, with an exemption for a maximum of two players in any starting XI who have been resident for a minimum of four years but not yet seven - classified as "deemed national" players - prior to the start of a competition.
However, the ICC revised those eligibility guidelines to lower the residency threshold. The new guidelines state that a player becomes eligible to represent a new country after three years of residency. Also, the "deemed national" stipulation - that a maximum of two such players can be selected in any starting XI who have been resident for a minimum of three or four years but not yet seven years - has been eliminated.
In order to make room for the new arrivals, batsmen Sagar Patel, Ravi Timbawala, Abdullah Syed and Camilus Alexander plus seam bowling allrounder Japen Patel have all been left out from the 15-man squad that toured the Middle East last month. The batting revamp is a consequence of USA being bowled out for under 110 in three of their five matches on tour. Only two players scored half-centuries on tour - Roy Silva and Timil Patel - with both coming in the final match against Oman.
Medium pacer Jessy Singh was not considered despite training with the USA squad through the winter because he has still not been declared fully fit while rehabbing his right knee following reconstructive surgery in August. Fellow fast bowler Ali Khan, who has been contracted with Guyana Amazon Warriors for the past two seasons of CPL, was unavailable due to work commitments at home in Ohio.
The squad will depart for Antigua on January 27 ahead of their first match on January 31 against Leeward Islands. USA's other group stage opponents in the double round-robin tournament are Guyana, Jamaica and English County side Kent.
Peter Della Penna is ESPNcricinfo's USA correspondent @PeterDellaPenna