Dodson blames backroom for World T20 failure
USA wicketkeeper Akeem Dodson has delivered a stinging critique of head coach Nasir 'Charlie' Javed, blaming the leadership group led by him for the team's failure to qualify for next year's ICC World T20. The events at last month's qualifying tournament in Ireland and the UK included a dramatic attempted revolt by players and staff against Javed.
While a senior USACA official conceded to this writer they were aware of the incidents, Javed said the team's inability to qualify for the World T20 was down to a lack of preparation and warm-up games. It's not clear, though, how the crisis will be resolved, especially given Dodson's blunt comments.
"The reason why we lost and are looking back on it now, not finishing where we should have, is that we really lacked leadership and the positive kind of coach necessary for our team to succeed, especially a new team playing together for the first time without any practice," Dodson told ESPNcricinfo following USA's return from Ireland.
"You need someone that is going to positively motivate them. Without practice games to get going, everybody was up in the air as to how to measure themselves and match up situations. What it needed was a coach and captain that is super positive and is able to give them the confidence they need.
"The captain feeds off the coach and management staff and they are expected to work together. I really think that's where we were lacking the most, the coaching. A lot of the decisions, the coach took into his own hands, especially the first three games and he shunned any outside opinions. He just wanted to do everything his own way."
Dodson also questioned Javed's coaching credentials, saying that while he may have had an illustrious career as a legspinner for USA - tied for fourth all time in 50-over cricket with 41 wickets - he lacked any ICC coaching certifications.
When contacted by ESPNcricinfo, Javed said that no member of the team confronted him during the tour regarding any issues they had with his leadership, and that his experience as a player and an apprenticeship as an assistant coach for USA under Robin Singh made him suitable for the role.
"You have to read and see cricket," Javed said. "I go to YouTube and read articles. I try to follow other people and how they execute the game. I've seen 700 or 800 games on TV and other places in clubs.
"Having certified level one, two or three… I don't want to criticise any players. I think they need to focus on their own games and how they performed instead of criticising the coach if he has a level one, two or three certificate or not. I've played enough cricket to know. I played in Australia and coached women's cricket at Randwick Cricket Club in Sydney. I was over there and coached when I played. Geoff Lawson helped me in that time."
According to multiple sources in the squad, the tour management was especially fractious, with the staff split into different factions, and that problems had been brewing since the ICC Americas Division One tournament in May. An emergency meeting was hastily called the day after the loss to Namibia - USA's third in a row in the World T20 Qualifier - in which all members of the squad were present except for Javed.
Though Javed's name was never mentioned, sources claim a team official spoke of "changes to management" that could be made and it was clear this meant Javed since he was the only person not present. The official claimed to have received authorization to make the change from USACA vice-president Owen Grey.
Players were then asked by a show of hands to vote if they wanted Javed removed, but before anyone voted it is understood that team video analyst Sriram Somayajula intervened and advised the squad against taking drastic action in the middle of the tournament. The meeting adjourned and the following morning, members of the squad received an email from Grey indicating that no such authorization had been given to make a change and that the management staff would be in place through the end of the tour.
"I started getting some text messages that there was a meeting about to take place but I really got involved after the meeting took place," Grey told ESPNcricinfo. "I got the same feedback not only about Charlie but the entire management staff including the manager. It wasn't just Charlie. Many players felt the entire management staff prevented them from moving forward to the World Cup.
"As far as this incident, what happened is that a couple of players including the captain reached out to me at midnight saying that there was a meeting held in the assistant coach's room about removing Charlie because the players were unhappy and they kept on going to the manager because they weren't happy with Charlie's leadership. This happened five hours before their next game against Jersey.
"I sent an email back to the entire 15-man squad and said look, you guys focus on the game tomorrow. Stay together as a collective group. I did not authorise any meeting. Let's move on. Whatever changes might be made will happen post-tournament, not during the tournament. Getting these messages about this meeting going on, I was caught off guard. That's when I stepped in with the president and we addressed it. It goes right across the board, everybody had a big ego and a chip on their shoulder and they did not realize that their issues were distracting the team."
Several members of the team also stated that a players-only meeting was called in which the 15-man squad committed themselves to ignoring whatever instructions and assistance the coaching staff was providing because the advice was often conflicting due to the internal battles within the coaching staff. Dodson said it helped the team bond together and was a factor in winning their last three games.
"No one was outwardly disrespectful or tried to shun Charlie but mainly the focus of most of the players was to focus on the game and block out negativity which unfortunately included the coach," Dodson said. "When I say negativity, that's very broad. The guys were trying to focus on their own game and play to the best of their potential with a clear mind. The way Charlie was trying to approach the game or trying to explain to us, it was very elementary, too basic."
Javed felt the team's lack of preparation was the main cause of its failure to qualify, and said he was hamstrung by the lack of warm-up games or a preparatory camp by the USACA, since he and other members of the staff had never watched some of the new players in the squad.
"Alex Amsterdam, I never seen this guy in my life, who he is or how he plays," Javed said. "He just came [to Ireland the day before the first match] and I can't just put him in to play. When he came at practice, he couldn't touch the moving ball. Everybody plays on matting wicket or synthetic wicket in USA. When I reached Ireland, I don't know Shiva [Vashishat]. I had never seen him or Amsterdam and one other guy. As a coach I knew some guys but not three or four guys. In my opinion, the selection process had hiccups. But these guys were good. I didn't have a problem with anyone. They just needed to play [more games] together."
Regarding the team's lack of preparation, Grey said the USACA was at fault and had let the players down but that the organisation was managing the situation with the resources they had at their disposal.
"I'm very disappointed that the team did not qualify to the World Cup but I'm very proud that the team pulled together and performed extremely well in an adverse situation in the lead up to the tour. As a member of the board of directors, I feel responsible and you can hold me accountable for not giving the players the tools necessary to succeed. But I can't do it by myself. We just didn't have the resources. As a board, we need to come up with a plan so we can get these players and the team the resources in the future."
Peter Della Penna is ESPNcricinfo's USA correspondent. @PeterDellaPenna