Peter Della Penna is a journalist based in New Jersey
Neil McGarrell, the former Guyana captain who played four Tests and 17 ODIs for West Indies, has become a strong candidate to be picked for USA's squad that will travel to Hong Kong for the ICC World Cricket League Division 3 in January. In his first year of playing in USA Cricket Association tournaments McGarrell, a 38-year-old left-arm spinner, captained the Atlantic Region to a second-place finish at the recently concluded USACA Senior Nationals, which was won by the North West Region. He took 6 for 44 in three matches in the tournament to be the third highest wicket-taker and also topped the runs tally with 147 in three innings without getting dismissed.
"I thought McGarrell was really outstanding," USA coach Clayton Lambert said. "His all-round performance was really up to par." At the USACA Eastern Conference tournament played in Atlanta in September, McGarrell claimed the Best Bowler award after taking 7 for 60 in three matches.
"Obviously, Neil McGarrell has been a standout," USA captain Steve Massiah said. "Over the last two tournaments in Atlanta and here, he was exceptional. I think if he is to become available to the US, that would be the link that we're missing."
USA's most pressing need since returning from WCL Division 4 in Italy has been a left-arm spinner. At the previous two World Cricket League tournaments USA participated in, they witnessed the success of Nepal's array of left-arm spinners including Basanta Regmi, who was the leading wicket-taker at the tournament in Italy, and Rahul Vishvakarma, who took 7 for 15 against USA at the Division 5 final in Nepal.
"One thing we have to try to do is include some more spin," Lambert said. "We are anticipating that the wickets are going to be turners, kind of Asian-style wickets. Instead of overloading on the fast bowling side, we were looking to keep the senior fast bowlers and try to bring in more allrounders and include a few spinners in there."
It appears that the only thing holding McGarrell back from joining the team is his day job. "I wouldn't have a problem representing the USA, but my job comes first," McGarrell said. "If I'm getting the time off from my job, I'll definitely represent the USA."
"It would be great to have a person like Neil in the team with the wealth of experience he has. His skill level would definitely lift this team and give us a much needed boost, especially in the fielding department which at times can be complacent," Massiah said. "Neil is someone who throughout his career has been an outstanding fielder and I guess having him in our squad would do wonders." Even at 38, McGarrell's fielding skills inside the circle remain sharp and he was responsible for two run-outs for his Atlantic team in Florida.
Lambert, Massiah and vice-captain Sushil Nadkarni were part of a selection meeting at the conclusion of the Senior Nationals in Florida to help decide the initial 18-man list sent to the ICC before the squad is trimmed down to the 14 players that will go to Hong Kong. USA's three appointed selectors, Sew Shivnarine, Sunny Khan and Abrar Ahmad, did not attend the Senior Nationals. According to multiple USACA officials, they were not asked to come because their observations from USACA tournaments in September were deemed sufficient to make selection decisions. However, Ahmad did not attend any of the USACA tournaments in September either.