Massiah left out of USA's probables list
Steve Massiah, the USA captain who was arrested by federal authorities in November, is not among the 29 players invited for a selection camp ahead of the 2012 ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier in the UAE. Former USA player Mark Johnson has been named head coach, while former Pakistan Test player Asif Mujtaba, who resides in Texas, is assistant coach.
The camp will be held in Florida between January 19 and 22 after which a 14-man squad will be selected for the qualifier from March 13 to 24.
Massiah was arrested on November 22 and is accused of defrauding banks and mortgage companies by allegedly falsifying mortgage loan applications to make borrowers appear more creditworthy to financial institutions. The charges carry a maximum of 20 years in prison. Massiah's passport was confiscated and sources claim his lawyer is currently engaged in negotiations for a plea bargain.
The most likely choice to replace Massiah as captain is Sushil Nadkarni, USA's highest run-scorer since his debut in August 2006. Nadkarni, 35, was USA's vice-captain at the ICC Americas Division One Twenty20 tournament in Florida last July and led the team with 149 runs in five innings. The other contenders for the captaincy are Orlando Baker and Usman Shuja.
Only five players on the list were part of USA's squad at the World Twenty20 Qualifier in 2010, when they pulled off a six-wicket upset victory over Scotland before losing to Ireland and Afghanistan. Apart from Baker, Nadkarni and Shuja, the other two players who were part of the squad at the previous qualifier were fast bowler Imran Awan and wicketkeeper-batsman Carl Wright. Awan, 32, has not represented USA since a poor showing at the ICC World Cricket League Division Five in Nepal in 2010, and is considered a long shot for a recall.
Wright, 34, last played for USA at the ICC World Cricket League Division Three in January 2011, where he had an inconsistent showing - 82 and 43 in his first two innings followed by 2, 1, 0 and 4. He was dropped for the ICC Americas Division One Twenty20. However, Wright played a crucial role for USA at the ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier in 2010. He was Man of the Match in the win over Scotland, scoring 62 off 57 balls to lead a successful chase, and was USA's highest scorer at the tournament, with 92 runs in three innings.
Four players who played for USA at the 2011 ICC Under-19 World Cup Qualifier in Ireland were invited to the camp - wicketkeeper Steven Taylor and fast bowlers Mital Patel, Hammad Shahid and Salman Ahmad. Taylor, 18, scored 455 runs in Ireland - the second most - and has an excellent chance of being picked. He made his debut with the senior team at the age of 16 against Jamaica in 2010 and was one of six wicketkeepers invited to the camp.
Former West Indies Test spinner Neil McGarrell, 39, was also included but was unavailable according to a source. McGarrell was originally in USA's squad for their tour to Hong Kong last year but the ICC ruled he was ineligible to play for them. Aditya Thyagarajan, USA's highest scorer in 2010, also received an invite to the camp but had to withdraw due to work obligations. Thyagarajan has not played for USA since dislocating his right knee in a freak injury against Denmark in Hong Kong.
USA is in Group B at the qualifier along with Ireland, Italy, Kenya, Namibia, Oman, Scotland and Uganda. Their first match is on March 13 against Uganda in Sharjah.
Probables: Salman Ahmad, Quasen Alfred, Imran Awan, Orlando Baker, Adil Bhatti, Ryan Corns, Akeem Dodson (wk), Bhim George, Muhammad Ghous, Adrian Gordon, Elmore Hutchinson, Naseer Jamali, Asif Khan, Ashhar Mehdi (wk), Aditya Mishra, Nauman Mustafa (wk), Sushil Nadkarni, Japen Patel, Mital Patel, Abhimanyu Rajp, Gowkaran Roopnarine (wk), Saqib Saleem, Samarth Shah, Hammad Shahid, Usman Shuja, Timothy Surujbally, Steven Taylor (wk), Ravi Timbawala, Carl Wright (wk).
Peter Della Penna is a journalist based in New Jersey