Is the current USA team the best ever?
Playing their best cricket in years, the USA defeated Suriname by 208 runs, Argentina by 7 wickets, Bermuda by 86 runs, Canada by 81 runs and the Cayman Islands by 87 runs in November of 2008 making a clean sweep to be crowned ICC Americas Cricket Cup Division 1 Champions.
The team's excellent performance, prompted several folks to say that this is one of the best, if not THE best, team ever. There are some others who disagreed as they walked down the memory lane.
Captain Steve Massiah, for his part, acknowledged the accolades: "I am very honored to have captained one of the best USA teams that ever walked on a cricket field."
Rizwan Mohammed, currently the president of the Florida Southeast Cricket League (FSCL), who was born in India, endorsed that view: "I believe the current USA team that won the Americas Cup, should be ranked as one of the best ever to take the field.
"The team had a good mix of youth and experience. The selectors and management did a fantastic job, after the debacle in Jersey earlier. Hats off to Steve Massiah who marshaled his resources very well. Kudos to Sushil Nadkarni who dominated the bowling and scored at will throughout the tournament. From an FSCL standpoint, Nasir Javed delivered as usual with his experience, guile, and wily spin. My congrats and best wishes to the team for 2009."
While not wanting to get drawn into making any comparisons, USA team manager and selector Imran Khan said "The team that played in ICC Americas was physically fit, mentally focused and spiritually at ease with itself. A perfect combination for a championship squad! Players like Aditya Thyagarajan, Orlando Baker, Steve Massiah, Carl Wright and Sushil Nadkarni just to mention a few are simply class acts and we need to appreciate their abilities."
While agreeing that the current team is very very special,some who had seen the action in the 70s and 80s, felt it necessary to gently remind USA about some really strong teams in the not too distant past!
Fast bowler Melford Roach, who hails from Montserrat, and made a tremendous impression on Australia's captain Ritchie Benaud, while representing the Leeward Islands in 1965, and was thought at that time, to be a very good West Indies fast bowling prospect.
After migrating to the USA in 1966, Roach went on to play for the USA and represented Paterson in the New York & Metropolitan League. He said, "I don't mean to belittle the present team." He felt that things were harder in his day as there were fewer opportunities.
"The present crop of players play more often, go to exciting places, and are more motivated as a result. Former players like Milton Wisdom, Carlyle Miller, Albert Thomas, Hume Parris, Ivan Atherley, Crichlow, Taylor, Dyer and Edwards, who were all very good players, and who already had a taste of first class cricket in their homelands (with the exception of Thomas), could have been much better had they had the same conveniences (and opportunities) as the present crop of players."
David Small an all-rounder who hails from Barbados, was an elegant right-hand batsman and medium pace bowler. Small, represented Jamaica AC and Paterson in the New York & Metropolitan League, before going on to represent the USA in Canada in 1981. Small recalls playing with and against, outstanding players the likes of Ken Williams, Sew Shivnarine, Gus Logie, Ramnarace, Grantley Riley, Stockie Blackman, Compton Adams and Mickey Lashley. Sew Shivnarine (a former USA captain) and Logie played for the West Indies.
Small thinks the teams before, like in the seventies and the early eighties, were better because the opposition at that time was much better. "Today the opposition is much weaker," he says. USA played against Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe and Bangladesh - teams that attained test status in the years to follow.
Brian Edun who hails from Guyana agreed with Small. "The opposition one plays against plays a big part in victories. The US played well at the ICC Americas, and had a good team, but was certainly not the best," he said.
Ivor Henry, also a former SFCA vice president, was born in Nevis said, "It is never easy to name an all time best team based on any one performance, but I will give it my best shot."
In his view - "2004 was a very good year for the USA team, and in my humble opinion the following players made up the best team ever: Richard Staple (captain), Nasir Javed (v. captain), Mark Johnson, Steve Massiah, Howard Johnson, Charles Reid, Rohan Alexander, Donovan Blake, Zamin Amin, Jagnash Desie, Clayton Lambert, Ejav Ali, Amir Affaludin and Rahul Kulkreti.
"In March 2008, they won the 6 Nation championship in Sharjah. In May they played a 3 day game against Canada at Brian Piccolo Park, Florida. In July they participated in the Americas Cup in Bermuda, where they also played a first class 3 day game. Later in September, they visited England and played against the likes of Australia.
"In summation, to be honest, I only know a few of the current players, and they are: Steve Messiah, Carl Wright, Lenox Cush, Steve Pitter, Nasir Javed and Masood Mohamed. While I congratulate the team for winning the recent competition played in South Florida, however, I will not rate them as the best ever with one good performance."
All of this debate is really a compliment for the current team. There is now once again a buzz surrounding the team and they should be proud to bring about this kind of chatter and excitement. And if someone thinks this team is not the best, that should only serve to inspire the team to aim higher and destroy all kinds of opposition. The proof - as they say - will be in the pudding. For Team USA, that means winning even more matches.