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Let's get one thing straight. The US U19 team that played in the February 2011 ICC Americas tournament did finish first and they did beat a legitimate contender in Canada in the finals. But what was quite evident in the matches against competitive teams (Canada and to a lesser extent, Argentina) is that the US batting, but for the openers in Taylor and Mirza, were woeful. Without vital contributions from all-rounders Salman Ahmed and Pranay Suri, the US may not even have won either of these matches. So one would think that the selectors would reflect on all this and enhance the batting strength of the team even at the expense of an extra bowler. They have in fact done the exact opposite in picking the 18 from which the final 14 will be selected.
Here is the list that USACA published: Shayan Abdul Ghani, Salman Ahmad. Kalim Ahmed, Sohaib Choudhry, Abhijit Joshi, Cameron Mirza, Prashant Nair, Prumjot Panesar, Mital Patel, Amarnauth Persaud, Gurpreet Sandhu, Gregory Raj Sewdial, Hammad Shahid, Trevor Singh, Jodhbir Singh, Jasdeep Singh, Pranay Suri and Steven Taylor.
When you contrast it to the 18 that was picked for the ICC Americas tournament, you will notice that Fahad Babar (who made himself unavailable) has been replaced by Greg Sewdial, a veteran U19 campaigner. Also Waleed Karimullah, a medium pacer has been replaced by Jasdeep Singh, also a medium pacer who coincidentally is from the same Atlantic region. Akash Jagannathan (who also regularly keeps for his NWR league team) and Krish Goel (who bowls handy off-spin), both solid middle-order batsmen from NWR, have been replaced by Prumjot Panesar (primarily a keeper who can wield the long handle) and Prashanth Nair (a left-arm off-spinner and lower-order batsman from New York). So we have even less batting than we did before in the 18 and more bowling than is possibly needed.
Another anomaly is that there are three spinners (two left-arm and one right-arm) all of whom turn the ball away from right-handers. And the only legitimate off-spinner, Pranay Suri, was given all of one over in the February tournament so clearly they want to only use him as a batsman. This being the case, it would have made sense to bring an off-spinner, someone like Viraj Sehgal from SWR, to the camp.
As far as batting is concerned, Cameron Mirza, Stephen Taylor, Abhijit Joshi, Jodhbir Singh – all open the batting for their regions. The only true middle-order batsman is Greg Sewdial with Abhijit Joshi capable of adapting to it. Both Salman Ahmed and Pranay Suri can certainly bat but they are best described as all-rounders. Pace bowling seems to be in good shape especially in the hands of Hamad Shahid and Salman Ahmed with some depth on offer. One area of concern would be catching as one can expect a fair number of edges. The spin department is in reasonable shape but it is unlikely that they will play more than a containment role given the seaming conditions. It will be interesting to see who makes the next cut to 14 players but it would appear that about the only spot open is replacing an extra bowler (likely a medium pacer) with someone who can bat a bit – someone like a Prashanth Nair.
The teams that the US will play in Ireland will be well balanced (relative to what they faced in the February) and the conditions will favor seam and swing. The premium will be on batting straight and not slogging as is common on flat tracks that our U19s are used to locally. Unless the middle order can help recover from potential early loss of wickets, the team will struggle to put up defendable scores or chase modest ones. This is where the lack of middle order batting strength is likely to be felt. The form of Greg Sewdial and Abhijit Joshi will thus be key to USA's chances.
[The author, who wishes to remain anonymous, writes the insighftul 'ThirdMaan blog - Views on US Cricket from Deep Third Man.' He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org]