USA needs to find a coach, whether currently in the USA or abroad, who is willing to work with the players locally in the USA in camps ahead of Division Three in order to form better plans and figure out the best combinations before the first game begins on April 28.
By Peter Della Penna (on Twitter)
Click here for Part 1 - Team Grades
Click here for Part 2 - Player Grades
Outlook for 2013 ICC World Cricket League Division Three
Find a committed coach for USA
Next year’s ICC WCL Division Three in Bermuda is scheduled for April 28-May 5, right smack in the middle of the IPL. This means that Robin Singh will not be available, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Despite being paid a fee rumored to be five figures per tournament to chaperone USA’s players, the results have been mostly unconvincing for Singh in his efforts at women’s, junior and senior level for USA. Most alarmingly, USA’s fielding has been dreadful at all three levels when he has been in charge despite a reputation staked as a player on fielding excellence.
Outside of a handful of days spent with the USA U-19 team in Florida in February and July 2011, Singh has not spent any time on U.S. soil doing any sort of coaching with USA’s teams. For Division Four, he flew into Malaysia the night before the first match and somehow thought all he had to do was snap his fingers to make magic happen. If Singh doesn’t fly into the Mumbai Indians camp on the night before their first match in the IPL to begin coaching them, why should it be acceptable for him to do the same for the USA and expect the team to respond positively?
Image (right) - Robin Singh most likely will not be around to coach USA at 2013 ICC WCL Division Three due to IPL commitments, not that it will adversely affect USA on the field. [Courtesy: Peter Della Penna/DreamCricket.com]
Former USA coach Clayton Lambert may not have been the best tactician, but he knew the strengths, weaknesses and capabilities of all the players he went on tour with because he spent considerable time around the USA at tournaments and training/selection camps to get familiar with the players he’d be working with on tour in order to strategize the best possible batting lineups and bowling combinations. Singh has not devoted any time in the USA to get familiar with USA’s senior players and it is clear that it has negatively impacted the team based on the disjointed results USA has had under his stewardship.
Speaking on behalf of the team, vice-captain Sushil Nadkarni said that USA approached the final match against Nepal by picking what was felt to be the lineup that gave USA the best chance at winning that day rather than giving younger players an opportunity to gain experience against Nepal’s bowling attack in a match where promotion and relegation wasn’t at stake. If USA was honestly going all out for a win that day, there is no reasonable explanation for why Abhimanyu Rajp batted at number three other than to say that the man in charge of setting the batting order, Singh, didn’t have a solid grasp on the strengths and weaknesses of the players who were a part of USA’s squad on tour.
Shifting Timroy Allen up, down and around the batting order cost the team badly in the first game against Nepal. Shifting Aditya Thyagarajan, Aditya Mishra and Orlando Baker all over the place also worked to unsettle and undermine their considerable talents. Players must have defined roles throughout the tournament so they can tailor their games to maximize their output for the team.
USA needs to find a coach, whether currently in the USA or abroad, who is willing to work with the players locally in the USA in camps ahead of Division Three in order to form better plans and figure out the best combinations before the first game begins on April 28, not in the middle of the tournament as was the case at the 2012 ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier in the UAE and at times during 2012 ICC WCL Division Four in Malaysia. Asif Mujtaba and Kumaran Thiru, who served separately as assistant coaches for USA in the UAE and Malaysia respectively during USA's two overseas tours this year, are both based in Texas and appear to be qualified coaching candidates with international cricket experience who would be useful if given an opportunity to assume the head coach role for USA.
Better individual accountability for fitness
USA’s players may struggle from tournament to tournament with team chemistry because the players do not player with each other year-round, but there is no excuse for players to show up unfit because they haven’t been playing with other national team players year-round. Fitness is an individual responsibility. Players in California are not responsible for running sprints on behalf of players in Texas or New York and vice versa.
Other teams at the Associate level face the same struggles that USA’s players do as amateurs in terms of getting enough time away from work to dedicate to their games. However, USA’s Associate level opponents are almost always head and shoulders above USA when it comes to their fitness levels despite being fellow amateurs. The fact that this tournament was played during the USA season means that not only were the majority of USA’s players unfit when they showed up for national team duty, it’s highly probable that they are unfit for club cricket duty on a weekly basis as well.
Instead of being the number one priority for USA’s players, it appears that for many of them fitness is something that is addressed if they get around to it. USA may have gotten away with substandard in Division Four, but that will not be the case in Division Three. Anyone who doubts this only needs to check the DreamCricket.com Report Card for 2010 ICC WCL Division Three. USA’s overall fitness contributed heavily to their downfall in the round-robin match against Denmark in Hong Kong and consequently led to them getting relegated.
Image (right) - Sushil Nadkarni's fitness on tour in Malaysia was top notch, but the rest of his teammates need to pick up the slack or else finishing in the top two for Division Three in Bermuda may be difficult. [Courtesy: Peter Della Penna/DreamCricket.com]
USA went 3-0 on the first day of back-to-back matches in Malaysia and 0-3 on the second day. A similar effort in Bermuda will definitely put USA behind Nepal and most likely put USA behind Italy as well to finish in third place and short of the 2014 ICC World Cup Qualifier in New Zealand. Quite simply, if USA puts in a similar effort in Bermuda to the one they produced in Malaysia, both individually and as a team, they will finish out of the top two and the consequences will be severe.
An eye to the future
Attempting to qualify for the 2015 ICC World Cup may be the last hurrah for many of USA’s players. Finishing in the top two in Bermuda and then the top two again at the ICC World Cup Qualifier in New Zealand would be a massive achievement and result in clinching a spot at the 2015 ICC World Cup. However, even finishing in the top six at the qualifier would be huge because it would mean that USA would be able to participate in the next cycle of the ICC Intercontinental Cup.
Being in the Intercontinental Cup would not only provide increased funding from the ICC, but would present tremendously valuable opportunities for some of USA’s younger players to gain experience and develop their skills in multi-day cricket on turf wickets against other top-tier Associates without the pressure of promotion and relegation being at stake. Having a bigger and more consistent schedule of matches for USA’s players to participate in might also open the door for several players to be given central contracts for the first time, a major step toward professionalizing the game in the USA.
Conversely, if USA does not achieve these things and with participation virtually non-existent for Associates in a 10-team 2019 ICC World Cup, it is conceivable that many of USA’s senior players would step aside if they failed to reach the 2014 ICC World Cup Qualifier and/or the 2015 ICC World Cup in order to allow a younger nucleus to form and focus on qualification for the next several ICC World Twenty20 events which are due to have 16 teams in 2014 and 2016.