Eleven uncapped players have been included in the 30-man shortlist for a USA selection camp announced by new selection panel chairman Ricardo Powell and ICC Americas consultant Tom Evans on Friday evening. The players will participate in the camp in Florida at the end of the month, and the camp will be used to help pick a 14-man squad for ICC WCL Division Four to be played in Los Angeles this October.
"It doesn't really matter to us who has played and who hasn't before," Evans told ESPNcricinfo after the squad was released. "It's exciting when you find talent that you might not have known about previously."
The most notable omission was former USA captain Steve Massiah, the country's all-time leading run-getter in 50-over cricket, who turned out at the ICC Combine in New York last month a few days short of his 37th birthday. Massiah scored few runs at the trial while his 2K run time of 11:30 - the ICC Combine target was under eight minutes - also hurt his chances. He last represented USA at the 2014 ICC WCL Division Three in Malaysia, when the team was relegated after a fifth-place finish. Three players who were part of USA's 2015 ICC Americas Qualifier squad in Indianapolis- Barrington Bartley, Karan Ganesh and Mrunal Patel - were omitted from the 30-man short list. Also missing was Timothy Surujbally who, along with Ganesh and Mrunal, played the World T20 Qualifier in Ireland and Scotland.
The uncapped players include fast bowler Ali Khan, who secured a CPL contract with Guyana Amazon Warriors this season after being included in an ICC Americas combined team this past January, as well as former USA Under-19 players Prashanth Nair and Nisarg Patel. Nisarg was included in the squad for the ICC Americas Division One T20 championship last year in Indianapolis but was ruled ineligible after it was determined he failed to meet residency criteria.
Usman Rafiq and David Pieters participated in last year's ICC Americas trial in Indianapolis, with the latter making it to the final 26 out of nearly 100 players. Pieters narrowly missed the 15-man squad after finishing as the leading wicket-taker over the course of the trial. Rafiq also served as a substitute fielder during the Cricket All-Stars match in Houston last November.
Davion Davidson, Keon Lake and Francis Mendonca have all been representatives in the past at USACA national tournaments for their respective regions. Mendonca also competed at the Indianapolis trial last September, but was squeezed out from making the first weekend of cuts by fellow wicketkeeper Srimantha Wijeratne of Canada, who was the leading scorer for the ICC Americas squad at the Nagico Super50 in Trinidad & Tobago.
However, two other uncapped players were plucked from relative obscurity. Los Angeles area medium-pacer Aman Lobana gained some notoriety when he knocked back Sachin Tendulkar's stumps in a nets session ahead of the Cricket All-Stars match in Los Angeles last November. At the ICC Combine in March, multiple sources said Lobana outbowled USA players Hammad Shahid and Elmore Hutchinson, who also feature in the 30-man list.
"Aman was really impressive to bowl the way he did in LA," Evans said. "He swung the ball, bowled full and was consistent. So I think everyone that was at that combine thought that he stood out and that's great. You always want depth in your fast-bowling brigade which, I think, within that squad we've certainly got."
Left-arm spinner Nosthush Kenjige has never represented a regional side at a national tournament. A member of Columbia CC in the NY Commonwealth League, Kenjige wowed evaluators in the last trial match at the ICC Combine in New York last month with an excellent demonstration of flight, turn, bounce and accuracy to claim three wickets in three overs.
One player who was included, despite having never played for USA nor attending the most recent round of eight regional ICC trials, is Arjun Thyagarajan. The 33-year-old left-handed opener - younger brother of former USA national stalwart Aditya Thyagarajan - attended last year's Indianapolis trial and turned in an underwhelming performance. He scored 8 off 13 balls in the opening T20 trial match on the main turf pitch before being shuffled down to a second-tier trial game played on an artificial strip for the final day of the trial's first phase.
Evans defended Thyagarajan's selection on the basis of prolific scoring at league level and in various local T20 tournaments seen by selectors. Among Thyagarajan's more impressive feats in recent years were his three centuries in the 2013 SCCA Division One competition played at Woodley Park, the venue for WCL Division Four. One of the knocks was 126 off 50 balls for Hollywood CC against a Vijayta CC bowling attack that featured four national bowlers: Shahid, Japen Patel, Timil Patel and Mrunal.
"The Combine process was fantastic in terms of identifying talent and having a level playing field but ultimately the selection panel want to pick the best squad in US cricket that's available to them and some guys couldn't make it to the combine and that's that," Evans said. "But you still want to pick what the selection panel thinks is the best squad and you've got to take everything into account.
"Arjun is well known to a few of the guys on the selection panel and they believe he's a pretty talented player. He's obviously been pretty dominant in terms of club cricket across the US and has topped a lot of the leagues and has made big hundreds. I think that was one of the things that appealed was the fact that looking towards a 50-over tournament, you want someone who makes big hundreds, not good-looking 30s and 40s and he's certainly got runs on his side over a fairly long period of time so that's what helped him out."
Steven Taylor, Muhammad Ghous, Nicholas Standford and Naseer Jamali also did not attend the recent ICC trials, but were all chosen for their solid records for the national side at recent tournaments, according to Evans. Taylor has a CPL contract with Barbados Tridents, while both he and Ghous were part of the 15-man ICC Americas team in Trinidad last January. Standford was twice Man of the Match with back-to-back 40 not outs in USA's wins over ODI nations Hong Kong and Papua New Guinea at the World T20 Qualifier last year. Left-arm seamer Jamali's economy rate of 3.90 was second-best for all bowlers at the same event.
With the exception of Khan, Taylor and Timroy Allen, who are taking part in the CPL, the rest of the USA 30-man group will fly to Florida on July 27 for the camp. A T20 trial match against a combined Caribbean Premier League XI will take place on July 29 at Central Broward Regional Park in Lauderhill, Florida as a curtain raiser for that night's CPL game between the St Kitts & Nevis Patriots and Trinbago Knight Riders. The players will be allowed to train with each of the CPL squads over the following two days before being reassembled to compete in three 50-over intra-squad matches from August 1-3 in Lauderhill.