USA have picked three uncapped players - Ali Khan, ambidextrous spinner Prashanth Nair and Abdullah Syed - in their 14-man squad for ICC WCL Division Four in Los Angeles from October 29. The same squad will also take on Canada in the three-match Auty Cup series from October 13 in Los Angeles.
Khan, a fast bowler contracted to Guyana Amazon Warriors in the Caribbean Premier League, emerged onto the USA national scene via the open trial process conducted by ICC Americas last September in Indianapolis. The Dayton, Ohio resident was also included in a 15-man USA and Canada combined ICC Americas squad that participated in the WICB Nagico Super50 in January.
Two other players included in USA's squad for the first time are dual-spinner Nair and hard-hitting batsman Syed, both from New York. Nair was injured on the first day of USA's five-day national squad camp in Indianapolis earlier this month, dislocating his left thumb during fielding drills and was unable to bowl. However, he impressed the selectors during the team's seven-day camp in July and August in Florida, taking wickets with both arms against a CPL Invitational XI.
Syed was not in USA's preliminary 30-man squad announced in July, but earned an invitation to the 22-member squad camp in Indianapolis earlier this month after a pair of blistering cameos playing for a New York XI against a touring Marylebone Cricket Club side. He cemented his place in the final squad by striking 71 off 89 balls in an intrasquad trial match, the highest score by any USA player during the camp.
"I have been pleased to see the application of the USA players to date. Indianapolis was a great camp and it was good to see the squad work hard together to drive performance standards and expectations," USA coach Pubudu Dassanayake said at the announcement of the squad. "I'm excited to be working with these players over the next month as we build towards our goal of winning on home soil. We hope the USA will get behind the players and support their efforts."
Alex Amsterdam, Nicholas Standford and Jasdeep Singh are also set to make their debut 50-over appearances for USA during the Auty Cup and Division Four. They were all part of USA's World T20 Qualifier squad in Ireland last summer. Amsterdam made 73 off 87 balls on List A debut in January for ICC Americas against Barbados in the Nagico Super50.
The two other inclusions are Timroy Allen and Akeem Dodson. Allen, 29, has not played for USA since a falling out with then coach Robin Singh while serving as vice-captain for USA at the 2013 World T20 Qualifier in the UAE. However, he made a comeback last year at the Indianapolis Combine and earned a contract with Jamaica Tallawahs, making six appearances this summer for the 2016 CPL champions. Dodson was USA's leading scorer at the 2015 World T20 Qualifier in Ireland and Scotland.
Among the six returning players from USA's WCL Division Three squad in 2014 is Fahad Babar, who was the team's leading scorer at that tournament with 247 runs at 49.40. Babar scored 59 off 35 balls against a CPL Invitational XI in Florida and scored an unbeaten century in an intrasquad trial match a few days later. Also included is Steven Taylor, who played six games for Barbados Tridents in this year's CPL.
The most notable exclusion was Muhammad Ghous, who had been struggling to retain his spot after captaining USA at the World T20 Qualifier last summer in Ireland. Ghous took 3 for 20 in 10 captaining a New York XI against the MCC tourists early in September, then claimed figures of 3 for 22 for USA against the MCC in Indianapolis, but didn't do enough after poor performances in Ireland and at the 2014 Division Three in Malaysia.
"It is encouraging that there is strong competition for spots," USA selection chairman Ricardo Powell said. "Some very good players have missed selection on this occasion but those players and even players who may have missed selection in the initial squad of 30 will have an important role to play in the future of USA cricket. The selection panel is confident we have a strong team, a good mix of experience and some new players who will make their USA debut. We wish the group and coach every success in our bid to win the World Cricket League Division Four."
Perhaps the most surprising omission from the final 14-man squad is Ravi Timbawala, who was the second-highest scorer at the team's seven-day camp in Florida behind only Babar. Timbawala, 27, was also the only specialist batsman in the 22-man squad who plays his home club matches at Woodley Park, the suburban Los Angeles venue hosting both the Auty Cup and Division Four.
Seven Woodley Park local league players were in USA's initial 30-man squad, but only two - Timil Patel and Elmore Hutchinson - made the final 14. Left-arm seamer Hutchinson and legspinner Patel currently sit atop the wicket-takers list in Division One of the 2016 Southern California Cricket Association 45-over league.
USA will be competing in Division Four with Bermuda, Denmark, Italy, Jersey and Oman. The top two teams in the single round-robin tournament will be promoted to WCL Division Three, due to be held in the first half of 2017. No captain was named to replace Ghous for USA, with a decision to be taken at a later date.