Rift with coach may have caused Massiah pullout
Doubts have surfaced over the reason behind former USA captain Steve Massiah's withdrawal from the country's 15-man squad for this month's ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier in the UAE. A spokesperson for the USA Cricket Association told ESPNcricinfo that Massiah was withdrawing due to work commitments, the same reason stated in Saturday's ICC release on the matter. However, sources have indicated that an alleged rift with coach Robin Singh over squad composition may have caused Massiah to belatedly pull out. It would not be the first instance in which Massiah and USA coaching staff have clashed this year.
Massiah stepped down from full-time captaincy in September after seven years leading USA, but indicated at the time that he was committed to tour with the team to the UAE in November. "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 this all-important tournament," Massiah had said in a USACA press release. "I don't have to be captain to make a positive contribution to the team. If the guys can play well and qualify for the ICC T20 World Cup that would be the pinnacle of my career and I am 100% focused on achieving that goal. I want to give myself very opportunity to be part of the team that goes to Dubai and if I am selected, to ensure that I am fully focused on batting well and assisting the young guys to achieve our dream of reaching the T20 World Cup."
By the October 15 ICC deadline for squad submissions, Massiah had not given notice to USACA that he would be unable to participate on the tour. He was included in USA's official squad submitted to the ICC and traveled to Florida for a training camp from October 18-20 at Brian Piccolo Park in Fort Lauderdale, where the final 15-man squad played three T20 trial games against Bermuda. Massiah played in all three games and was preparing to go on tour to the UAE.
After the camp, USACA announced that former West Indies spinner Neil McGarrell would captain the team even though Orlando Baker had captained USA to an undefeated 8-0 record at the ICC Americas Division One T20 tournament in March. Timroy Allen - who was convinced to come out of retirement and is receiving higher financial compensation than the rest of his teammates for this tour thanks to an arrangement with one of USA's sponsors - was made vice-captain. USACA also made two changes to the squad after the camp, successfully petitioning the ICC to replace Ritesh Kadu and Fahad Babar with Barrington Bartley and Imran Awan.
According to sources, Massiah was unhappy with the final squad and has used "work commitments" as an excuse to get out of the tour. Massiah was also visibly unhappy in March when veterans Usman Shuja and Aditya Thyagarajan were dropped ahead of the ICC World Cricket League Division Three, after which Massiah's relationship with Robin and former assistant coach Thiru Kumaran deteriorated. Kumaran has not been part of the team setup since returning from Division Three where USA finished in third place and missed out on reaching the 2014 ICC World Cup Qualifier. The tour wound up being Massiah's last as USA captain.
In addition to Massiah pulling out, veteran batsman Rashard Marshall withdrew from consideration a week before the training camp in Florida while former captain Sushil Nadkarni also made himself unavailable due to work commitments prior to a list of probables being announced in September. Their absence leaves USA very thin on experience, particularly in the batting department.
Massiah is not the only member of the setup who has allegedly clashed with Robin. A series of incidents during and after the October 18-20 training camp, including changes to the final squad, spurred Andy Pick to resign as USACA high performance manager. As many as seven players were invited to attend the camp without Pick's knowledge.
"Your guess is as good as mine," Pick told ESPNcricinfo when asked about who invited those players to the camp when they were outside the official 15-man list submitted to the ICC on October 15. "That was another one of the issues. When people come and introduce themselves to me in the hotel and I'm not expecting them to be here…. There's no process."
It has since been learned that Awan was invited by Robin to come to Florida for the camp. Awan did not play in any of the three trial matches against Bermuda, but participated in a 30-minute bowling session in the nets. Following the camp, the USACA request was made to have Awan included in the squad along with Bartley. Multiple sources at the camp have stated that Pick and Robin were engaged in a verbal confrontation at Brian Piccolo Park after the first trial match against Bermuda on October 18, another event which may have contributed to Pick walking away.
Peter Della Penna is a journalist based in New Jersey