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By Peter Della Penna (on Twitter)
Former Sri Lanka and Malaysia national team coach Mumtaz Yusuf will coach the USA U-18 team next week in Florida at the ICC Americas U-18 Match Play Camp against Canada and Bermuda. Yusuf has been living in the USA since 1999 and is a Level Three qualified coach who currently works with players in Southern California. USACA General Manager Manaf Mohamed confirmed the news and also said that Wesley King will serve as the Team Manager.
Yusuf says that he wants to put a greater emphasis on fielding and fitness with this group to help get them ready for next year’s ICC Americas U-19 Division One tournament when USA will look to qualify for the 2014 ICC U-19 World Cup in the UAE. Yusuf believes USA should have finished in the top six in Ireland at last year’s ICC U-19 World Cup Qualifier and doesn’t want to let this current group of players fail to qualify for the next global event in two years’ time.
“In my coaching where I have succeeded in Sri Lanka and Malaysia, the side has to be fit and has to be a very good fielding side,” Yusuf said. “I would always give the edge to a fielder slightly over his batting and bowling. Especially in Florida with humid conditions, if you are not fit and you are not a good fielder, that’s going to be a minus point for us.”
Yusuf coached Sri Lanka and was a national selector from 1989-1992. He then coached Malaysia beginning at the 1994 ICC Trophy in Kenya continuing through the 1997 ICC Trophy in Malaysia and finally concluded his five-year stint with them in 1999 before moving to America.
Image (left) - Mumtaz Yusuf [Credit: USYCA]
He has been actively involved in coaching players in Southern California for the last decade and most recently coached the South West Region U-15 squad in Connecticut last year at the USACA U-15 National Tournament. Yusuf said that one player from that event who caught his eye and who he is looking forward to coach is Randall Wilson from the New York Region. Yusuf is also eager to work with USA U-18 captain Steven Taylor, who has already represented the senior side at multiple tournaments.
“I witnessed the U-15 final against Northern California last year and I was very impressed with Randall Wilson,” Yusuf said. “Not only Randall Wilson, I think we have a very talented bunch of players. I have been very impressed with Steven Taylor. I think working with that young kid will be a great pleasure to me because it will be the first time I will be working with Steven Taylor though I know his capabilities and his caliber and mental approach.”
Building up towards preparing a team for next year’s ICC Americas U-19 Division One qualifier, Yusuf is recommending that USACA should also select a shadow squad of players to keep the competition level amongst the current squad high so that players stay hungry and work hard to stay in the team.
“Once this tournament is over, I would recommend that apart from these 14 core players, we need to pick another team of 14 players who have missed out on selection,” Yusuf said. “We cannot allow players to be complacent and let them think they have been picked for this so [next time they have] 100% chance of being selected because when that happens you don’t want to try hard. You need to have someone breathing down your neck. Only then you’ll want to keep yourself sharp. After this tournament is over, pick another 14 players and play some games to keep players on their toes.”
USA’s squad arrives in Florida on Friday and will have three days of training before their first match on Tuesday at the Central Broward Regional Park. USA will play a total of four round-robin 50-over matches against Canada U-18 and Bermuda U-18 next week.