Twenty-one players fast-tracked to audition for Americas team
Twenty one players from Canada, USA, Bermuda and Suriname have been shortlisted to play for an ICC Americas regional team that will take part in West Indies' Nagico Super50 tournament next January. All 21 men have been fast-tracked into phase two of a trial organised the Americas regional office in Indianapolis this September.
Aside from the 21 players invited to phase two, ICC Americas high performance consultant Tom Evans said close to 300 applications have been received from the Americas region to participate in phase one of the trial, which begins on September 18 in Indianapolis.
Headlining the fast-tracked list is USA's Steven Taylor, who opened the batting for Barbados Tridents in the Caribbean Premier League final against T&T Red Steel. Other USA players tabbed were Fahad Babar, the ICC Americas Division One T20 MVP and Timil Patel, who finished the group stage of the World T20 Qualifier tied for third with 10 wickets.
Canada had the most players - nine - going through to the second weekend, including Ruvindu Gunasekera and Nitish Kumar.
However, a notable omission was 20-year old offspinner Nikhil Dutta, who was Canada's best bowler at the Americas qualifier in May, and later won a CPL contract with St Kitts & Nevis Patriots.
Dutta had pulled out from the national squad for the World T20 qualifier to play in the CPL. And Cricket Canada responded by revoking their No Objection Certificate. Since then a dispute has risen between the two parties.
Cricket Canada president Vimal Hardat said Dutta had sent an email on June 28 about his intention to withdraw from the World T20 qualifier. Although Dutta's representatives acknowledge the email, they allege it was in response to the administrators putting pressure on him to drop his CPL commitments and return to Toronto so he could practice with his Canada team-mates.
According to multiple sources, Cricket Canada general manager Ingleton Liburd then flew to St Kitts on June 29 to personally meet with Dutta and Eric Simons, the Patriots coach. A verbal agreement was made that Dutta could stay in St Kitts for another week before joining the Canada squad in Scotland on July 7, two days prior to their first match of the World T20 qualifier.
But, sources claim officials in Canada disregarded Liburd's efforts and later that day applied to the ICC to replace Dutta with Hiral Patel, and also revoked Dutta's NOC.
The shortlist to phase two of the trial in Indianapolis was decided based on the players' performances at the Americas qualifier and the World T20 qualifier, and recommendations from each country's board. Since Cricket Canada did not nominate Dutta, Evans said his status for the trial is on hold.
"They are working through a process with Nikhil given what happened at the CPL," Evans told ESPNcricinfo. "We hope that can be rectified and he can then be included straight into phase two, but if not we hope that he'll come to phase one and would make it through. We hope he and Cricket Canada can work through some of their issues and we see him involved in this process because he's an exciting talent."
A majority of the phase-one applications came from the USA, but Evans said there was also interest from Canada, Bermuda, Cayman Islands and even Panama. Between 75 and 100 players will be asked to participate in phase one, five to ten would move on to phase two and compete with the 21 shortlisted players for a spot in what is expected to be a final 14-man regional squad.
"I think getting hundreds of applications online has been really pleasing," Evans said. "Even in talking to a couple of the US players who are going through to phase two, I think they're excited by the prospect of representing the region and playing in the West Indies 50-over competition. When you look at the names on that page as well as some potential talent that will come through phase one, it's exciting. Hopefully with a side picked three months beforehand, it's enough time to galvanize the group together and make them highly competitive."
"We know in such big countries like the USA and Canada that there's plenty of good cricketers out there that we might not have known before. So I'm excited to work through the list of applicants and hopefully get a really good group of 75 to 100 there. As you can imagine with so many applications, the quality varies quite a lot. But there are some people who have put quite a lot of time into some of their videos, putting together highlights packages together as well as nets highlighting their skills. If their league or association they play in has online stats, it makes a big difference to be able to look at those as well and see for yourself how they're doing."
Evans said that the 75-100 players chosen for phase one of the trial, which will feature Courtney Walsh and Mike Young as coaches, will most likely be finalised in another two weeks so as to give participants enough notice to make plans to arrive in Indianapolis in mid-September.
Peter Della Penna is ESPNcricinfo's USA correspondent. @PeterDellaPenna