They did not play as if they were representing more than 150 years of cricket history by pulling on the red, white and blue uniform.
By Peter Della Penna
Batting – F: The team amassed 12 ducks and only three half-centuries in the tournament. Two bowlers, Asif Khan and Muhammad Ghous, finished second and third in the averages column behind Steve Massiah. A different order was used in each game so it appeared that no one understood what their specific roles were. Only seven partnerships crossed 50 runs. The opening stand in each game for USA produced 36, 9, 2, 3, 6 and 12 runs. The small grounds in Hong Kong were supposed to favor USA’s heavy hitters. Instead, they fell flat on their faces.
Image (Right): Usman Shuja took five wickets for USA, allowing 3.07 runs per over, the second best economy rate in the entire tournament.
Bowling – B-: It’s hard to fault the efforts produced by the bowling unit. Kevin Darlington and Usman Shuja were as reliable as ever. There was only one half-century opening stand allowed, against Denmark in their initial encounter, while there were three half-century and two century stands overall. Darlington and Orlando Baker were the main victims of poor catching. Asif Khan performed well in his first tour, but the team was a bowler short in most matches and the absence of Timroy Allen hurt the team badly.
Fielding – D: In addition to the batting, this was the major culprit in USA’s losses. USA missed out on 14 definite chances in the field. By comparison, USA’s opponents only gave them five let offs in the tournament. The only game in which USA didn’t miss a chance was against Papua New Guinea and that’s because they were only in the field for six overs. The fielding performance in the rematch with Denmark was an all-time low. The best way for USA to address this is by improving the country’s infrastructure. Better facilities will produce better ground fielding and catching habits, not to mention better overall cricketers.
Fitness – D: Some of the drops in the field were a direct result of players being slow and out of shape. Far too often, players were coming off the field for treatment. There was almost always at least one and sometimes two substitute fielders on the field at the same time. In Italy, the team never looked fitter. This tournament was well below that standard. Not surprisingly, the players who showed the most energy in the field were the ones playing for America for the first time.
Carl Wright – D: The wicketkeeper scored 82 against Hong Kong and it appeared his form drought from 2010 had finally ended. It was just a mirage. After top scoring with 43 the next day against Denmark, he was a no-show for the rest of the week, scoring seven runs in his last four innings. He looked disinterested at the crease, and carried over the same attitude into the field. No one questions his talent, but his work ethic is a major concern.
Image (Right): Darlington, who took eight wickets in the tournament, broke Hemin Desai's leg stump in the match against Oman. But he will be 40 when USA plays in Division Four next.
Orlando Baker – D: The allrounder’s tour was submarined when he was moved from his spot as an opener after the second match in favor of Lennox Cush. When Baker arrived at the crease against PNG, the score was 25 for 4 and he could only watch helplessly from the non-striker’s end while the team folded. Against Oman, he entered at 16 for 5 and was the only recognized batsman to cross into double-figures. His 17 in that game wound up being his high score for the event. He took five wickets at key times while Denmark’s Michael Pedersen and Italy’s Peter Petricola were dropped off his bowling during their crucial unbeaten knocks. Forces conspired against him throughout the week to derail his chances of success, but there was no excuse for his deplorable attitude in the field on the final day against Denmark.
Steve Massiah – C-: Finished as the leading scorer for USA in the event and seventh overall, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. His pair of dismissals against PNG and Oman were a result of completely irresponsible batting. He finished with three LBW dismissals, two of which can be chalked up to poor umpiring, but his reaction to the final one was way out of line and got him a reprimand from the ICC. He was part of the leadership group that was responsible for the inclusion of Howard Johnson against PNG and his overall captaincy left a lot to be desired.
Lennox Cush – F: There’s simply no way to sugarcoat it. Cush’s tour was an epic failure. He faced 48 deliveries on the week to produce scores of 2*, 16, 0, 0, 1 and 16 at an average of 7. Part of the blame must go to Massiah and Clayton Lambert. Cush was clearly out of form and should have been mercifully dropped at some point, but instead he was repeatedly thrown to the wolves and eaten alive by the opposition. He was also memorably hammered for 28 in an over against Hong Kong. Despite taking five wickets, his main responsibility in this team was to score runs and he never delivered.
Sushil Nadkarni – D: The vice-captain’s batting took a precipitous fall from the lofty heights he reached in Italy where he was Player of the Tournament. In Bologna, he had three half-centuries, but in Hong Kong his high score was 47 against Italy. It was a sign that he should have been opening the entire time in the tournament and USA’s strategy to move him down the order to negotiate the spinners backfired, mainly because the whole lineup collapsed against PNG and Oman before spin was ever introduced. He left his good fitness behind in Italy and had multiple missed chances in the field that were particularly costly.
Rashard Marshall – C: Marshall was one of the few players from the squad who can look at himself in the mirror without hanging his head in shame. His first three dismissals were a result of good bowling rather than the poor shot selection employed by the majority of his teammates. His next one was off a delivery that should have been called a no-ball on height and he finished off the tournament with an unfortunate run out. Marshall’s fielding was extremely valuable once again as he took four catches – the most for any non-wicketkeeper – including a ridiculous one-handed effort against Hong Kong and was responsible for two run outs. USA’s squad is convinced it should have been three when Rocky hit the stumps on a chance involving Italy’s Petricola, but the leg umpire claimed his vision was blocked by Ritesh Kadu running across and so Petricola batted on to the end.
Usman Shuja – B+: The fast bowler took five wickets for USA, allowing 3.07 runs per over which was the best economy rate for USA and second best overall in the tournament. He never had a bad match with the ball and finally lived up to his immense potential with the bat to score 43 not out in the win over Oman. He played the entire tour wearing a splint for a broken pinky on his bowling hand. He proved it wasn’t an issue when he held onto a bullet on the boundary in the first game against Hong Kong. Shuja can always be counted on to give his best.
Image (Right): Asif Khan claimed six wickets and also took three catches.
Asif Khan – B+: Took six wickets in his debut tour for USA and had the team’s second best economy rate surrendering 3.34 runs per over. His fielding was superb both in the circle and on the boundary and he finished with three catches. He scored 31 not out against Oman, teaming up with Shuja to get USA over the line. He also looked capable of doing the same in the group match against Denmark, but ran out of partners in the team’s 30-run loss. The fact that he finished second on the averages list at 27.50 says just as much about his own determination at the crease as it does about the failure of the recognized batsmen.
Kevin Darlington – B+: Led the team with eight wickets and could have had even better figures had his teammates held onto the chances that came their way. Bowled the most maidens for the second tour in a row, but had his economy go up slightly on the small grounds in Hong Kong. His experience is valuable and he’s another player who turns in his best effort on a daily basis. The only worry is his long term health. Darlo spent an awful lot of time coming off the field to ice his knees and was visibly hobbling around the field during matches. He’ll be 40 when the next Division Four comes around and it would be asking a lot to have him stick around to put a toll on his body when the rewards are not guaranteed.
Muhammad Ghous – Incomplete: It’s hard to know if Ghous had a bad tour because of skills or if it was because he wasn’t given a proper chance to succeed. He was asked to bowl with a short boundary at his back against Hong Kong and after getting by unscathed for a few overs, was finally smashed around before being taken off. Against Denmark the first time around, he was given one over before being harshly taken off by Massiah and sat out the next three games. He bowled the maximum amount of overs in the rematch with Denmark, but got no help in the field. He finished with zero wickets in 16 overs at the event. This tour put a major dent in his confidence and he needs a lot of work to get it restored.
Durale Forrest – Incomplete: The way Lambert talked about how good Johnson looked in the nets, one would have thought it was actually Forrest who was the grandpa. When Forrest came on to bowl, he looked quick enough but wasn’t quite penetrative. He showed a lot of heart to come in and fight hard in the final three games after being overlooked against PNG, but the message was sent by the people in charge that they don’t respect him and probably aren’t about to groom him for future tournaments as long as they’re around, which is unfortunate.
Ritesh Kadu – Incomplete: He walked into a buzz saw against PNG on his debut, looked okay against Oman until running out Nadkarni which messed with his head and led to him playing a poor shot to get out a short time later, and was very unlucky to be run out in the manner he was against Denmark on the last day. He got opportunities though and didn’t capitalize on them. His keeping was okay, not spectacular. It’s difficult to say whether or not he’ll get another chance.
Ryan Corns – Incomplete: Was full of hustle as a substitute fielder during the first four games before finally getting his much deserved opportunity in the final match of the group stage. It probably came one or two matches too late. He showed in his 30 against Italy that he has the tools to succeed at the senior level. Now he needs the support of coaches and administrators to make sure that his talent doesn’t go to waste.
Aditya Thyagarajan – Incomplete: He only had one innings, which everyone will remember for a long time because it brought about the end of his tour through injury. The bowler, Denmark’s Bobby Chawla, tried to send down a googly which turned into a loopy, low full toss. Thyagarajan managed to not only york himself, but dislocate his right knee as well. His true value to the team was underscored by the last place finish that followed after he went down.
Howard Johnson – Incomplete: In Italy, where Johnson served on his first tour as an assistant coach, a fast bowler – Timroy Allen – went down injured but the team opted to leave him in the squad to use as a substitute fielder even though he couldn’t throw the ball or lift his arm above his head. In Hong Kong, a batsman – Thyagarajan – went down injured and Johnson went from assistant coach to replacement player, starting ahead of fellow fast bowler Forrest. Johnson took two wickets and was USA’s quickest bowler in his only appearance, which came at the expense of three players who poured their heart and soul into making the squad on merit. Apparently, the team leadership is prepared to sell their souls to the devil if it gives USA a chance to win. Protocol needs to be put in place to make sure such an incident never happens again.
What the team needs heading into Division Four
An attitude adjustment: USA has a bad reputation for being ungracious in defeat. After the first loss to Denmark, post-match presentation officials asked for both teams to pose for a group photo, but USA’s players and coaches walked away despite repeated requests to come back for pictures, which did not sit well with the ICC nor the Denmark squad. After the loss to Papua New Guinea, everyone walked out to shake hands, but six of the 14 players (Wright, Baker, Cush, Nadkarni, Marshall, Johnson) didn’t bother to come back out of the locker room for the post-match presentation.
Where's the pride? This is a group of players that mainly functioned as 14 individuals instead of one team. While the new players demonstrated a lot of hunger, too many veterans played recklessly and without any fear of being dropped. On paper, USA has tens of thousands of players to choose from, but if this was the best 14 that USA had to offer, they’re really just a bunch of big fish in a small pond. The overall demeanor in the field on the last day against Denmark was an absolute disgrace. They did not play as if they were representing more than 150 years of cricket history by pulling on the red, white and blue uniform.
While there shouldn’t be a knee jerk reaction to drop everyone and start from scratch, there is definitely an argument to cut loose more than a few players and bring in some new ones who have the desire and desperation to fight hard for every run, whether it’s in the first match of the tournament or a fifth place playoff. Instead of playing every game like it was their last, they played each match like it was just another game… and finished last.
Pictures Courtesy - Darlington (ICC/CricketEurope), Asif Khan and Usman Shuja (Peter Della Penna/DreamCricket.com)
[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.]