Suriname's rise and Canada's firepower
During a 10-month stretch from September 2004 to July 2005, the ICC Americas region was at its peak. It began with USA's participation in their first major ICC tournament - the Champions Trophy in England - and ended with Canada and Bermuda finishing third and fourth at the 2005 ICC Trophy in Ireland to qualify for the 2007 World Cup.
A decade later, having three Associate teams capable of competing in World events is something the Americas can only dream of. The region had no participants in the recently completed World Cup in Australia. No team from the region has ever made it to the World T20 and after the three regional torchbearers flamed out at the 2013 World T20 Qualifier to finish 12th, 14th and 15th out of 16 teams, the Americas' customary three slots at global qualifier were slashed to two.
In years past, the ICC Americas Division One T20 tournament was a mere formality. The main excitement centred around which of USA, Bermuda and Canada could produce the biggest margin of victory over cannon fodder like Argentina and Bahamas. Such luxuries are no longer. With a slimmed down event and only a pair of global qualifying berths up for grabs, the 2015 version of the ICC Americas T20 championship is set to be the most captivating edition yet.
Here is a look at how each squad is shaping up ahead of the double round-robin tournament which kicks off on Sunday at the brand new Indianapolis World Sports Park.
Reigning tournament MVP Janeiro Tucker leads the 2013 runners-up back to American soil with the hope of claiming the regional T20 championship for the first time. Tucker was a one-man wrecking crew two years ago in Florida, finishing with 304 runs, behind only USA's Steven Taylor, and also tied for the tournament lead in wickets with 13. Former captain David Hemp may not be as explosive but his consistency is highly valued by his team-mates, having contributed three half-centuries at this event in 2013.
Big-hitting Lionel Cann is no longer a part of the squad. Bermuda also suffered a major injury blow with fast bowler Malachi Jones forced to pull out earlier this week. Fiqre Crockwell has also withdrawn from the squad. So rising talents like batsmen Tre Manders and Christian Burgess plus spinners Joshua Gilbert and Delray Rawlins must step up in a big way for Bermuda to have the best chance of advancing to the global qualifier later this summer.
Their first appearance in the tournament since 2011, when they won the title in Florida, and are heavy favorites to win their second regional T20 title. The squad is not as deep as in previous years, but their top-heavy line-up still looks threatening with the likes of opener Ruvindu Gunasekera and middle-order batsman Nitish Kumar, who scored 119 for Loughborough MCCU against Kent in April.
Canada are in good form as well having swept their warm-up tour of Texas 3-0 earlier this week. Offspinning allrounder Nikhil Dutta took 6 for 26 in their five-wicket win over an invitational XI, including the scalp of former West Indies international Ricardo Powell. Cecil Pervez and Satsimranjit Dhindsa aren't express pace, but quick enough to keep opposition batsmen on their toes. They will provide the bowling attack with the kind of balance which the other three teams lack, another reason why Canada is primed to finish on top.
The South American nation has made consistent strides forward in the last five years and finished a surprising third out of five teams in 2013. They won four out of eight matches, including a last-day five-wicket victory over Bermuda. They were placed in Division Two for 2014, along with Bahamas and Cayman Islands and were promoted by virtue of their 5-1 run in Florida last November.
Suriname features several Guyana natives, including captain Mohindra Boodram, the only player to score a half-century at Division Two. Their catalyst for success though is allrounder Sauid Drepaul, who was Suriname's leading scorer and wicket-taker at Division One in 2013 and Division Two in 2014. He top-scored with 42 in Suriname's successful chase of 144 over Bermuda two years ago and his presence will make sure Suriname aren't taken lightly.
The hosts are the ICC Americas Division One reigning undefeated champions, but new captain Muhammad Ghous is the only remaining player from the team that won the inaugural Americas T20 tournament held five years ago in Bermuda. Ghous' form has been poor recently but USA will hope his new leadership position galvanises both him and the rest of the team to a third regional T20 title.
Steven Taylor set the tournament on fire two years ago with a pair of centuries and a 95 on his way to being the tournament's leading batsman with 413 runs in eight games. He did so as an opener but recently has shown a preference to bat at number three, a decision that could be crucial to protecting a very inexperienced USA middle order.
Fast bowling is another area of concern as Hammad Shahid and Jasdeep Singh have exactly one T20 cap for USA between them. Opponents will be targeting them early in the tournament and the manner in which they respond could go a long way toward determining USA's fortunes in Indianapolis.
Peter Della Penna is ESPNcricinfo's USA correspondent. @PeterDellaPenna