Sixty-six players were put through a full day of skills and fitness tests at Indianapolis World Sports Park in the initial evaluation process to compete for a spot in an ICC Americas Combined squad for January's WICB Regional 50-over competition. ICC Americas High Performance Consultant Tom Evans was impressed by the way the candidates responded to some of the obstacles on the day.
"I thought it was a really good day," Evans told ESPNcricinfo. "It was a pretty long day. With a little bit of weather around, it made it extra challenging from a logistical standpoint but I thought the coaches and the players were able to adapt to that really well. To go to the indoor centre and do the fitness testing there and using St. Vincent Sport Performance (SVSP), who were excellent doing the testing, I think they showed that level of professionalism that we're keen for these guys to strive towards."
The ICC brought four strength and conditioning coaches from SVSP, renowned for their training and testing methods to improve speed and agility in NFL, NBA and track athletes, to test all participants. Due to morning rain in Indianapolis, the players were brought to an indoor training facility and measured on a broad jump, a 20-metre sprint and a modified shuttle run to simulate three runs between the wickets.
"When we look at this group today of cricket players, what impresses me is that when you challenge people to be athletic and they respond," said Ralph Reiff, executive director of SVSP. "They were very attentive, they were ready to go, no one was an outlier on the backside of the bell curve so no one demonstrated that they don't belong here so I was impressed by that. There was a very high level of athleticism within this group."
Rain cleared by the afternoon to allow the trial to shift back to the Indianapolis World Sports Park. The players were divided into seven groups, with one coach specifically assigned to track each group. Separately, the four specialist evaluators - Mike Young for fielding, Courtney Walsh for pace bowling, Venkatapathy Raju for spin bowling and Evans for batting - each ran a station checking on specific skills.
"The love that these guys are showing in wanting to be here, the pride, it's kind of blown me away a little bit," Young said. "I didn't know what to expect but they made me more excited as well. I was pumped up to start with but I'm like, man these kids want it so bad. Talking to Courtney and all the other coaches, they all agree. They've just been fantastic."
Though 83 players were invited to come to Indianapolis, 17 were absent from Saturday. Among those were four Canada players - Hiral Patel, Jeremy Gordon, Shaheed Keshvani and Srimantha Wijeratne - and two USA players, Japen Patel and Mrunal Patel, who were part of their country's respective squads at July's World T20 Qualifier. Evans said some withdrew due to injury and others might show up by Monday but may find it more difficult to make it into next weekend's second phase.
"There were a variety of issues why people didn't come and we expected that when you ask people to get themselves here," Evans said. "We really respect the fact that 66 did and even more wanted to but just couldn't do it. But we were really pleased that people were willing to make that investment. In terms of the guys who might be late arrivals, they'll be putting themselves under more pressure because they're going to get seen less so they'll probably have to do something outstanding when they get here."
Players will compete in trial matches on Sunday in the next step of the phase one evaluation process before more trial matches are scheduled for Monday.
Peter Della Penna is ESPNcricinfo's USA correspondent. @PeterDellaPenna