The youngest player in the squad, Steven Taylor, may have taken over the mantle from vice-captain Sushil Nadkarni as USA's most intimidating batsman during this tournament.
By Peter Della Penna (on Twitter)
Click here for Part 1 - Team Grades
Sushil Nadkarni – A-: USA’s vice-captain finished as the leading scorer at the tournament with 238 runs at 47.60 and two half-centuries. His century stand with Steven Taylor to open the tournament against the host side set the tone for a solid event. He top scored for USA in three of the five games he played. His highest score, and the highest score at the event by a USA player, was his 84 in the group game against Nepal. If he had been able to bat to the end to score a century and take the team to victory, it would have been perhaps his greatest knock in a USA uniform, but he fell just short thanks to a spectacular catch by Binod Das at backward point.
Nadkarni’s fitness has waxed and waned over the last couple of years depending on the tournament. It was definitely waxing at this event where he looked much slimmer than he was at the ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier in March. Nadkarni and Timroy Allen were the only USA players who never looked tired while at the crease. He was a spritely fielder inside the circle as well, regularly flinging his body along the turf to save runs.
Image (right) - Sushil Nadkarni completes a cut shot against Malaysia. Nadkarni finished as USA's leading scorer for the second tour in a row. [Courtesy: Peter Della Penna/DreamCricket.com]
Steven Taylor – B+: The youngest player in the squad may have taken over the mantle from Nadkarni as USA’s most intimidating batsman during this tournament. He finished second overall in the runs list behind Nadkarni with 216 at an average of 36.00 and a strike rate of 104.85. He scored half-centuries against Malaysia and Singapore. The only game he really failed to get going was in the final match against Nepal where he made just 11.
While he had several explosive starts, Taylor somehow managed to get out just when he appeared set to destroy the opposition. He looked tired toward the end of the tournament, particularly in the ways he got out against Nepal so fitness may be something he should focus on, particularly if he is committed to keeping wicket. He finished with six catches and a stumping, but also missed two stumping chances.
Steve Massiah – C-: The reinstalled captain struggled to get going on a day when batting looked easy for everyone else against Malaysia, then looked even more out of sorts against spin versus Denmark. He made his highest score of the tournament against Nepal with 41 coming in at number five, but the batting order was mangled for that match to accommodate him after his early troubles against spin. USA wound up paying for it by the end of the match despite an 89-run stand between him and Nadkarni that put the team on the brink of victory. He finished as USA’s fourth highest scorer on the week with 121 runs at 24.20, but generally did less with more opportunities at his disposal than other batsmen.
In the past, Massiah has typically been one of USA’s most reliable fielders, both on the ground and in the catching department. At this tournament though, he looked a step behind, grassing three catches against Nepal and missing a golden opportunity for a run out early against Denmark. He was also responsible for a slow over rate against Denmark that prevented USA from using some of their more desired options later in the innings though he did well leading the side during a hectic second innings against Singapore by going to spin within a few overs after play resumed following a rain delay.
Aditya Thyagarajan – C-: USA’s leading scorer in 2010 had a lukewarm return from injury at this tournament. He top scored in the team’s warm-up match win over Denmark with 48 coming in at number four, but then managed just 35 runs in four innings during the live matches. He didn’t seem to respond well after being shuffled around the batting order to accommodate others, batting at three different positions for his four innings.
Image (left) - Aditya Thyagarajan in action against Denmark at the Selangor Turf Club. Thyagarajan had a rough return to the national team after missing more than a year due to injury, making 35 runs in four innings. [Courtesy: Peter Della Penna/DreamCricket.com]
He played for the team against Malaysia, going to slog after entering with six overs to go and wound up getting out for 2. He failed against Denmark, then got out cheaply again in a situation that appeared tailor-made for him with 10 overs to go against Nepal. His 21 against Singapore might not look special on paper, but it was part of a vital 59-run stand, providing the anchor at one end to allow Allen to swing away at the other. Thyagarajan also gets credit for his fielding. In a team full of butterfingers, he held on to three solid catches running in from the boundary and never dropped a chance.
Aditya Mishra – C-: Mishra was one of USA’s best batsmen in March at the ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier, but overall in this event he was inconsistent and mixed two decent innings with two failures. He provided a solid late boost against Malaysia scoring 25 off 14 balls and along with Taylor tried to score as quickly as possible against Tanzania to lift the team’s net run rate, which made a huge difference by the end of the tournament. He had two sloppy failures against Denmark and Nepal in the group stage and then threw away his wicket in the final against Nepal after getting a decent start. He’s a batsman who can be classified as a team player after being rotated into three different batting positions to suit the needs of the team, although it wasn’t always to great effect for him personally.
A greater cause for concern for him is his fielding. Along the ground he is okay and generally puts in some good efforts to slide or dive to save balls from going over the boundary. In the air though, he is poor at judging the flight of the ball coming off the bat and it leads to bad mistakes, such as when he ran in from the rope against Nepal for a chance against Paras Khadka only to see the ball go over his head before landing inside the rope and bouncing over for a boundary.
Orlando Baker – C: Someone who didn’t do a lot wrong, but didn’t set the world on fire either on this tour. Baker stabilized USA with help from Allen against Denmark after a middle order collapse, but the pair never got a proper chance to bring USA completely back into the contest once rain intervened. He failed after being thrust into the opening slot against Nepal in the group game and then was somewhat harshly dropped for it. Recalled for the final against Nepal, he showed that he still has some gas left in the tank by grinding out 39 to top score with Nadkarni in the defeat. He finished with 66 runs at an average of 33.00 on tour, USA’s fourth best average in Malaysia.
With the ball, he wasn’t used that much, but took three wickets in 15 overs, a strike rate that other players in the squad would have gladly traded for. He dropped two chances that came his way, a sharp one at square leg against Nepal and a reflex return chance against Malaysia. He also missed a chance to run out Subash Khakurel on 99 in the group game against Nepal and fluffed a stumping late in the final against Nepal after putting on the pads to relieve Taylor. The four misses by Baker summed up a forgettable tour in the fielding department for USA overall. However, the fact that Baker is willing to keep wicket if called upon in an emergency shows his unselfishness for the team.
Timroy Allen – A-: USA’s most dynamic player, Allen showed how much USA missed him last year in Hong Kong and again in the UAE in March. Came in with 15 overs to go against Malaysia and produced his best score in a USA uniform, 72 not out in 43 balls on his way to claiming the first of two Man of the Match awards in Malaysia. Allen topped the averages for USA in the event with 166 runs at 55.33. Had he come in at number seven with 11 overs to go against Nepal instead of number three in the fifth over of the chase during their group game, USA would have had a much better chance of winning that game.
Image (right) - Timroy Allen poses with his Man of the Match award after USA's win over Singapore that clinched a spot in next year's ICC WCL Division Three in Bermuda. [Courtesy: Peter Della Penna/DreamCricket.com]
In addition to topping the batting averages for USA, Allen took the most wickets with 10 at an average of 19.80, although he was slightly expensive going at more than five runs per over. Allen also had more chances put down off his bowling than anyone else. USA’s fielders dropped six chances off him and that had an effect on his numbers across the board. In the field, he’s not as energetic as he used to be. He took one catch and put down a sharp one at gully in this tournament. In general he looks more reserved when it comes to throwing his body around, mindful of how he aggravated a back injury in Italy two years ago while diving to stop a boundary in a 10-wicket win over Tanzania.
Ryan Corns – C: When given an opportunity, Corns responded quite well. His stats might not say so, but he was a valuable niche player on tour and has plenty of room to grow into a position where he can be a solid all-rounder for USA in the future. Selecting him as the lone left-arm spin option ahead of Asif Khan was a bold move as Khan is a better pure spinner, but Corns justified the move with some handy performances and the tour did a lot for his continued development.
Batting wise, Corns did about as well as could be expected when thrust into a role he is not suited for, coming in late in the innings to slog quick runs batting at number eight. He finished with 45 runs in three innings at an average of 15.00, his best contribution coming against Singapore with 24 in a tight match. Fielding wise, he needs to work on his throwing accuracy. He is very energetic fielding at point, but dropped a chance and missed two run out opportunities, including a crucial one against Nepal when Subash Khakurel was on 22, before finally converting one against Singapore.
Elmore Hutchinson – B-: Quietly was one of USA’s better bowlers on tour. Hutchinson had the best economy rate for any of USA’s pace bowlers at 3.90 in 40 overs, the second most overs bowled by USA behind Muhammad Ghous. He sometimes had trouble locating his line though, bowling a team-high 14 wide deliveries that went for 19 wide runs out of the 62 wide runs USA conceded. He finished with six wickets, tied with Ghous and Shuja for second on the team.
With the bat, he had USA’s sixth best average on tour, 17.66. Hutchinson scored 53 runs in four innings and was used as a pinch hitter against Tanzania, coming in at three to slog some runs when USA was looking to boost their net run rate. He showed good athleticism overall in the field and despite only taking one catch, never grassed any and always showed tremendous effort and hustle to save balls from going over the boundary.
Image (left) - Elmore Hutchinson bowling against Nepal at Kinrara Academy Oval. Hutchinson was one of USA's better bowlers in Malaysia and finished with the second best economy rate on the team behind Muhammad Ghous. [Courtesy: ICC/Peter Lim]
Abhimanyu Rajp – C-: Rajp was dropped after three games, which may have mystified many back home as he was USA’s second best wicket-taker at the time behind Allen, but his economy rate was frightfully high for a finger-spinner. Rajp shined at the ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier because it’s a format where a bowler can get away with trading off runs for wickets. A 7.55 economy rate in that event looked okay next to 10 wickets, which was good enough to tie for the team lead. However, a 5.73 economy rate standing next to five wickets in Malaysia was not good enough. Rajp has a learning curve to adjust to in 50-over cricket. He must strike a balance between being economical and attacking for wickets.
With the bat, he was bizarrely asked to bat at number three in the final against Nepal in his only appearance at the crease and didn’t score. Fielding wise, teams aren’t afraid to take him on in the circle and he missed a critical run out chance against Andreas Lambert of Denmark, but in the air he is one of USA’s sure-handed fielders. He got official credit for two catches but also took two other very crucial ones as a sub fielder in a tense battle against Singapore.
Usman Shuja – C: Shuja was named Man of the Match in an easy win over Tanzania after taking 3 for 14. Overall though, he was very average. In the other four games he played against Singapore, Denmark and twice against Nepal, he took just 3 wickets for 116 runs. While he was economical against Denmark, he struggled to make the most of the new ball when conditions were in his favor in that match, taking 1 for 20 in seven overs. Entering the tournament, he had a phenomenal record against Nepal with 14 wickets in six games at an average of 11.86 and an economy rate of 3.25. In the two matches USA played against Nepal in Malaysia, Shuja finished with 1 for 75 in 12 overs.
Shuja had multiple chances dropped off his bowling in the group game against Nepal, but in general was just not as effective as he usually is. His batting has also been marginalized by the current management. This is the same player who rescued USA from 20 for 7 against Oman and took them to a remarkable two-wicket win at Division Three in Hong Kong last year by scoring 43 not out. He is good enough to bat at number eight, definitely no lower than nine but he was sent in at numbers 10 and 11 in this tournament and responded by batting down to that level, scoring 4 runs in three innings.
Muhammad Ghous – B: After going through a sophomore slump in 2011, Ghous has bounced back during his third year with the senior team to be a dependable performer. He had the best economy rate for the team on tour with 3.62 runs per over in a team high 48.3 overs. He can sometimes look lethargic when not a lot is at stake, but put Ghous in a pressure-packed situation and he is very hard to rattle. He was chiefly responsible for the shift in momentum during the second innings against Singapore. After batsman Chetan Suryawanshi flew out of the gate following the rain delay, Ghous reeled Singapore back in by applying outstanding pressure. It didn’t take long for dot balls to turn into wickets.
Like Mishra, Ghous reacts very poorly when the ball comes off the bat in the air and it can result in some angst for his fellow bowlers. When the ball travels directly to him though, he is a solid catching fielder. He put down a difficult return chance in the final against Nepal, but took two catches during the tournament. He finished tied for second with Shuja and Hutchinson by taking six wickets, but also had three chances dropped off his bowling.
Andy Mohammed – Incomplete: Mohammed played two matches, batting just once at number four against Singapore in the final group game. He entered in the 21st over in a situation that called for pushing the ball around for singles and doubles to rebuild in the middle overs after both openers had been dismissed. Instead, he kept trying to slog Singapore’s spinners for six. He succeeded once before being caught on the boundary for 10. Mohammed needs to show greater maturity and awareness of match situations to get more opportunities in the future. In the field, he converted a run out chance against Tanzania and had a brilliant diving catch against Singapore to spark USA’s fightback in the field.
Akeem Dodson – Incomplete: Dodson only played one match, scoring 3 against Singapore. He took one catch behind the stumps but also missed a straightforward stumping. Regardless of whether he was fielding inside the boundary or wearing a 12th man’s pinnie outside of it, no one brought more positive energy to the team when they were at the ground than Dodson. He’s eager to improve and his attitude demonstrates he has unwavering commitment to the team, supporting the squad wholeheartedly whether he plays no match or every match.
Click here for Part 1 - Team Grades
Coming up in Part 3 - Outlook for 2013 ICC WCL Division Three
[Views expressed in this article are those of the author who was present at all of the team's matches. If you have differing views or opinions, we respect those views and urge you to provide your feedback - both positive and negative - in the comments section.]