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By Peter Della Penna
Bowling – A-:
The bowling attack functioned well not just as individuals but as a
unit. The fast bowlers were outstanding together at the start of a
match. The highest first wicket partnership for any opponent was 23 by
Cayman Islands, a tribute to the job done by the opening combination of
Usman Shuja and Kevin Darlington. There were only three 50+
partnerships by the opposition and one 100+ partnership allowed and
that came as a result of a series of drops in the loss to Italy.
Batting – B+: The only three players who scored
centuries in the tournament belonged to USA. The team also racked up
seven ducks and only one of those happened to a tail ender. Alarmingly,
they lost a wicket on the second ball of an innings on three occasions.
However, no one could match USA’s batting depth, which saw USA to
safety on several occasions. Most notably against Argentina, the
numbers seven and eight reached triple figures.
Fielding – C+: There was not a single catch
dropped in the slips during the tournament, although one chance was
missed when Lennox Cush bizarrely dove backwards with the ball landing
in front of him. The outfield catching was hot and cold with several
very good catches while at other times there were some very simple
chances missed. Some were because of drops while other chances never
went to hand because fielders reacted slowly or were not alert. The
ground fielding could also use some improvement.
Fitness – B+: When it came down to playing five games
in five days in 85 to 90 degree heat, USA’s players held up remarkably
well. Kudos to the players for taking on the individual responsibility
to come ready to play. Most impressive was the fitness of Shuja and
Darlington, who shared the new ball five days in a row and never showed
any signs of being worn out.
Sushil Nadkarni – A-: The heartbeat of the batting
order, he set the tone for USA’s success or struggles. His first two
half-centuries were accomplished with brute force, while his third
against Nepal involved a tremendous amount of skill and patience to
guide the team to a winning total. Getting out for a duck to Italy in
their first matchup portended the gloom that followed and against
Argentina his nought was the first phase of a dramatic top order
collapse. As for his fielding, one would never know he is 12 months
removed from a torn Achilles tendon. For a man built like a tank, he
was extremely nimble in the field and took four catches with only one
Orlando Baker – B: He started off the tournament
with a half-century against Tanzania, but never crossed 50 again and
could have done much better than he did in the batting department. With
his bowling, he had an uncanny knack to come on and be a partnership
breaker, hurrying the batsmen with his nippy medium pace. Four times he
took a wicket in the first over of a spell. He was very reliable in the
field and took three catches.
Steve Massiah – B: Scored one half-century against
Cayman Islands, but like Baker, did not reach the level he should have
with the bat, especially considering that Massiah was the leading
run-scorer at Division 5 in Nepal against much better competition. He
demonstrated some very good captaincy though and almost always managed
to push the right buttons with his bowling changes. He also leads by
example with his fielding. He has perhaps the surest hands on the team
and held every chance that came his way.
Lennox Cush – B+: He had a somewhat quiet start
to the tournament, but stamped his authority on it at the end with a
half-century to initiate a revival against Argentina and a thumping
century against Italy in the final to be named Man of the Match. With
the ball, he was decent in taking five wickets, but was relied upon
less than in other recent tournaments due to the success of Ghous. His
fielding was solid in the slips and decent elsewhere.
Carl Wright – C+: Only scored 47 runs in four
innings at 15.66, well below his standards. He looked set for a big
score against Italy until he was unfortunately run out by Aditya
Thyagarajan. Wright kept very well behind the stumps to have seven
catches and three stumpings and just missed one or two other sharp
chances. He gets docked credit for drawing a reprimand from the match
referee for his misconduct in the match against Argentina.
Aditya Thyagarajan – B+: Saved USA’s bacon in the
match against Argentina with his second century for USA. His
half-century in the first game against Italy was tarnished due to the
role he played in running out Wright which sealed his team’s fate in
that game. He took two catches, one of them an outstanding diving
effort against Cayman Islands, but had multiple drops and needs to get
a little sharper with his ground fielding.
Rashard Marshall – B+: Rocky scored a long overdue
maiden century for USA, picking the perfect time to do it against
Argentina. He could have scored many more runs, but got himself out in
his two other times at the crease with a pair of soft dismissals. He is
right up there with Massiah in the fielding and catching department. He
took four catches and teamed up with Wright for a runout.
Usman Shuja – A: USA’s standout bowler and their
leading wicket-taker. He was the catalyst for USA’s dominance in the
field, bowling with great ferocity and intimidation. Just as he did in
a do or die showdown vs. Nepal on their home turf, he turned in a
clutch display in the same situation in Bologna against Nepal to setup
victory. His batting technique is good enough to be a number seven or
even a six, but once he gets his eye in, he gets overexcited and plays
one too many shots to lose his wicket. Concentration at the crease is
just about the only thing he needs to adjust to get better.
Muhammad Ghous – A-: The 20-year-old has taken to
playing with the national team at the senior level like a duck to
water. It’s hard to find fault with anything Ghous did in the
tournament. He got hit for a few late against Cayman Islands, but in
the big games, he showed himself to be a big game player. With a spot
in Division 3 at stake against Nepal, he was given the ball at the
midway point of Nepal’s chase in a pressure situation and showed nerves
of steel, eventually finishing 3 for 31 to help seal the match.
Adrian Gordon – A: Only played four games, but
finished tied for second on the team with 10 wickets and had the best
average at 11.80 runs per wicket and stepped up in a big way when
Timroy Allen went down with an injury. He sometimes took an over to get
his line right and get settled, but once everything with him was in
tune, he was marvelous. He was unlucky not to take any wickets during
an outstanding spell against Nepal, but reaped just rewards to claim
seven wickets in the team’s final two games.
Kevin Darlington – A-: Darlington took 10 wickets in
six games and was solid at building pressure, turning in a team high
seven maidens. Had an off game against Cayman Islands but after that
was solid. The 38-year-old is one of the fittest players on the team as
well and tied with Ghous to bowl the most overs on tour with 50.
Nasir “Charlie” Javed – D: Javed looked good against
Cayman Islands to take 3 for 29, but then followed that up with a
disastrous performance against Italy. He was standing at mid off when
Italy’s Peter Petricola drove a chance in his direction while on 3, but
Javed’s reaction time was so poor that he never even got a hand to what
should have been a catch. Petricola went on to score 85 to be Man of
the Match in a win for the hosts. Javed was picked as a specialist
bowler, but only bowled three ineffective overs in that match before he
was taken off and then got out for a duck to cap off his day. To
underscore how bad that error was on Petricola’s chance, Allen was used
as a substitute fielder ahead of Javed in USA’s final three matches.
Allen fielded for Sushil Nadkarni for the duration of USA’s innings in
the field against Nepal, despite the fact that he could not raise his
right arm above his head, let alone throw anything in, due to a torn
muscle in his upper back sustained while fielding against Tanzania.
Javed’s mistake against Italy was so costly and his fielding deemed to
be so sub standard that a person who could not use his arm to throw a
ball in was preferred as a substitute fielder ahead of him.
Timroy Allen – Incomplete: Allen only bowled six overs
in the tournament because of an injury he picked up in the field
against Tanzania. However, he showed tremendous heart by coming on as a
sub fielder against Nepal to take two catches only a day after his arm
was in a sling. He also took another catch as a sub fielder against
Steven Taylor – Incomplete: Taylor played one game and
got out for a six-ball duck against Argentina. Behind the stumps, he
was sloppy in conceding eight byes and had numerous other fumbled
takes. Physically, he is capable of holding his own, but on the mental
side of the game, he has yet to demonstrate the level of focus and
concentration required to play at the senior level.
What the team needs heading into Division 3 – A left-arm spinner:
Or at least that’s what Massiah said when posed with this question
after the team qualified to play in Hong Kong. “It would be great for
us to have the addition of a left-arm spinner in our attack which gives
us a little more variety. Over the course of this tournament and the
previous tournaments and in world cricket, we see how effective a
left-arm spinner can be. So obviously that’s an area in which we’ll
have our eyes wide open and the search is on for a good quality
left-arm spinner.” This is also another way of saying that the team
needs a good spin bowler who can turn the ball away from right-handers,
which spells doom for Javed’s spot on the team. Massiah shot down
Barrington Bartley and Samarth Shah when asked if they would be
suitable to step into the squad.
Ryan Corns is probably still chomping at the bit to get into the senior
team after being named Player of the Tournament at the ICC U-19 World
Cup Global Qualifier last year and his left-arm spin troubled the
senior players during the Twenty20 trial matches played at USACA
Nationals last November. It would be a positive step to include him in
a 14-man squad for Division 3.
[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.]