Six USA players may withdraw from Uganda tour
Three USA players have said they are definitely withdrawing their availability for USA's scheduled tour to Uganda in October over safety and security concerns, while three others have said they are considering pulling out depending on how the situation continues to unfold. All three players who are committed to withdrawing played for USA in 2013 and can be termed as first-choice players for the national team, while two of the three who are considering withdrawing are also key players who could expect to be picked for the tour.
The development comes ahead of a USA Cricket Association (USACA) board meeting this week to decide whether USACA will approve of sending a squad to participate in the six-team ICC WCL Division Three from October 26 to November 2. The event is part of the 2019 World Cup qualifying structure and the top two teams will be promoted to WCL Division Two in January.
ESPNcricinfo has communicated with 16 players about the Uganda tour, all of whom have played for the USA. Seven of the 16 rated safety and security as a major concern for touring Uganda while four stated they had received pressure from family members not to go on the tour. The majority of players felt the ICC would provide adequate security for the team if the tour went ahead, but four players felt that USA's squad would not be provided with any additional security compared to the other teams, while two felt there would not be enough security to convince them to go.
"2010, that's the safest tour I've been on and I felt safe on that tour," one player told ESPNcricinfo. The player was referencing enhanced security for the team ahead of their first-ever match against Afghanistan on the 2010 tour to the UAE for the World T20 Qualifier. Those security arrangements were specially made by then USACA chief executive Don Lockerbie.
"For every two players we had one security guard. If five or six of us went out, we had at least three security guards so we could go anywhere we wanted and would feel okay and not have to worry about anything but not on the other tour." The player said that on a subsequent tour to Dubai for another World T20 Qualifier, USA had far less security to the point where he did not feel comfortable leaving the team hotel on his own. As such, he did not feel confident about any guarantees made by tournament organisers regarding security for the team in Uganda.
The player was less concerned about general safety in the country and is more worried about Ebola virus as well as USA's players being the target of a terrorist or kidnapping plot. In particular, the player mentioned the recent murder of an American journalist carried out by ISIS militants in the Middle East as something that factored into his decision to not travel to certain countries while representing a national team.
"I listen to a lot of talk radio and politics. You're going over there to represent America. Yes it probably won't happen but I personally think about the worst situation. Anything could happen so it's better to be safe than sorry. You will be wearing the uniform. The flag will be there. Word starts going around. It's kind of sad that James Foley probably had nothing to do with this whole stuff. He was just a regular journalist and he got caught up in it. That's probably the same mindset that he had, 'What would they want with me? All of the politics that are happening here, I don't have anything to do with it,' but he actually got dragged into it.
"Anything to do with America, there are so many people that really don't like us so you just have to be really careful. Once you have anything to do with America, then more than likely you will be a target. I don't look at it as whatever they have happening in the Middle East is the only branch. I think copycats and someone who has the same beliefs that they do will try to capitalise on whatever is going on."
Another player said he had been in regular contact with several players from Nepal on the issue, including one player who could be described as a key first-choice player, and that they held concerns mainly over Ebola virus but also some security concerns. Two other USA players said they would make themselves available for selection if the tournament is moved to Singapore, Malaysia, Nepal or the USA. One of those two will not play otherwise while the other is undecided on whether he will accept a squad invite if the tournament is not moved from Uganda.
Most players are in favour of a USA team going on tour whether or not they themselves wind up traveling. Only two players said that anyone from USACA had reached out to them to get their opinions on the issue while many players said they had not had any communication with USACA since USA's last tournament in November 2013. Of the two who want the tournament moved, one said the lack of a professional contract and support structure for USA was a consideration to not go to Uganda. Taking time off from work and risking personal safety for little to no pay was not worth the trip and that if a first-choice team can't go, then USACA should consider calling off the tour.
"Everybody wants to play for the USA. You would like to have your best team participating in the tournament and you'd like to win," the player said. "If certain players want to go anyway and the USA qualifies, I'd be happy, but I won't go. If USA can't select the best 14, no I don't think they should go because at the end of the day, it's a product. If you send a product out there and the product is no good, then it's going to reflect badly on you. To leave my job and go over there for how long and they won't pay me, as much as I want to represent the USA, it doesn't make sense. It's not worth it, not at all."
The ICC has previously said in emails sent in August to the six participating countries that "there are currently no major concerns identified or any specific threats to the tournament, teams, match officials, match venues or hotels." ESPNcricinfo contacted the ICC in August to ask if there was any contingency plan in place should USA or any other country withdraw from the event, but a spokesperson declined to comment.
Peter Della Penna is ESPNcricinfo's USA correspondent. @PeterDellaPenna