Four new faces in USA's World T20 qualifiers team
USA have included four uncapped players in their final 14-man squad on Thursday for the 2012 World Twenty20 Qualifier next month in the UAE. Only six players were retained from the squad that finished runner-up to Canada at last summer's ICC Americas Division One Twenty20 tournament in Florida.
Elmore Hutchinson, Adil Bhatti, Abhimanyu Rajp and Nauman Mustafa are the first-timers who will be flying to Dubai in March. Offspinner Rajp, 25, was the vice-captain for the USA Under-19s team at the 2006 ICC U-19 World Cup in Sri Lanka. He had a five-wicket haul against New Zealand during the tournament and was the leading wicket-taker in USACA national tournaments in 2010, but is only now getting a chance to tour with the senior national team.
Mustafa was originally included in USA's squad for the ICC Americas tournament in July, but was then removed from the squad to make way for Sushil Nadkarni, who had been controversially dropped and then recalled to the USA squad for Florida. Nadkarni wound up being the leading scorer for USA in the event and was recently named captain for the team travelling to the UAE.
The selection of Mustafa, 37, as first-choice wicketkeeper comes at the expense of Akeem Dodson, 24. Dodson had been seen as a wicketkeeper of the future for the United States and was one of just two US-born players in the preliminary squad, along with Steven Taylor.
However, USACA sent invitations to as many as six other wicketkeepers for a selection camp last month in a sign that they were not confident in Dodson's short-term prospects, despite the fact that he received the Best Wicketkeeper Award at the ICC Americas tournament in July. Overall, the squad is one of the youngest ones the USA has fielded in recent times, with eight players under the age of 30.
Former USA player Mark Johnson has been named head coach and former Pakistan international Asif Mujtaba has been named assistant coach. Shoaib Ahmed will be the team manager on tour. A pair of USACA board members will also be part of the travelling party. Akhtar Masood Syed and Nasir Javed, both longtime allies of USACA president Gladstone Dainty, will serve as the team physiotherapist and bowling coach respectively.
USA is tentatively scheduled to leave on March 6 from New York for Dubai to get acclimatized to conditions before their first match of the tournament on March 13 against Uganda in Sharjah. USA is also scheduled to play Ireland, Italy, Kenya, Namibia, Oman and Scotland in Group B.
USA squad: Sushil Nadkarni (capt), Aditya Mishra (vice-capt), Orlando Baker, Adil Bhatti, Ryan Corns, Muhammad Ghous, Elmore Hutchinson, Asif Khan, Andy Mohammed, Nauman Mustafa (wk), Abhimanyu Rajp, Gowkaran Roopnarine (wk), Usman Shuja, Steven Taylor (wk).
Peter Della Penna is a journalist based in New Jersey