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USACA CEO Darren Beazley responded to criticism surrounding the selection process in a phone and email interview with DreamCricket.com.
"USACA stands by the team that was selected," Beazley told DreamCricket.com. Beazley, who has been in the job for just over two months also said that the selection process under his administration would be thorough and professional. "I have plenty of experience in this sphere and I hope that US cricket can benefit from that experience."
In an opinion piece that appeared on this website and in an article on ESPNcricinfo, Peter Della Penna questioned the dropping of Usman Shuja, who is USA’s second highest wicket-taker, and Aditya Thyagarajan, who is USA’s third-highest run-getter in the 50-over format. Della Penna argued that the players should have been selected based on their record against some of the WCL Division III opponents such as Nepal and Italy; past performances in Bermuda; and their recent form.
"Not having Thyagarajan and Shuja in the squad doesn’t make this a bad USA team. USA still has some very solid players. However, heading into USA’s most important qualification tournament since the 2004 ICC Six Nations Challenge without Thyagarajan and Shuja in the squad robs USA of putting their best possible 14-man squad on the plane to Bermuda. That makes it an atrocious selection process," Della Penna wrote in his strongly worded criticism.
In his response, Beazley reaffirmed his faith in the process. “The selection of the US National Men's, Women's and Youth cricket teams is based on performance, future potential and suitability to the particular tournament or competitor format. This criterion includes whether it is a [2 day] game such as those played in the Auty Cup or a T20 fixture. It also includes the types of pitches that the team will play on the conditions that will prevail in that country or region.”
“Our focus is to develop a squad and give ourselves the best chance of going to New Zealand,” he said referring to the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup to be hosted jointly by Australia and New Zealand.
"I am satisfied that [the process] gave every player the chance to press his case and for the group to begin to 'gel'," Beazley noted.
"The Board of USACA invested in 21 players being considered, including a US citizen based in Queensland. The selection process was as independent as possible. ICC America's High Performance Manager Mr. Andy Pick was co-opted to assist with the process. He sat in on several meetings due to his knowledge about the player group, his experience and pedigree in high performance management and selection and his independence. He did not have a vote in the final composition of the team, but certainly challenged some of the thinking and his thoughts were debated thoroughly. I myself brought a level of independence as I could only comment on what I saw, not knowing the players personally.
"My input was all about ensuring that the three criteria for selection were adhered to by the selection group. The input of the national coach was also an important element that has not been present previously I am told," Beazley wrote in an email.
Beazley said that he knew that the player group was starting to feel that they are building up to something special. "Self-belief is something that you nurture when you have your elite groups together," Beazley wrote.
Beazley emphasized that USACA has looked within and outside the country to find talent and the ‘practice series’ against Bermuda provided USACA with an opportunity to evaluate Josh Dascombe of Australia.
"This is the first of such experiments that USACA will undertake to ensure that talented US citizens that are playing elite cricket overseas can be considered for national duties in the years ahead. It is all part of the evolution of US cricket to follow world's best practices." Beazley said that the added depth would allow USACA to rotate players depending on suitability.
“Four other high profile candidates made contact with us and we will evaluate them,” Beazley told DreamCricket.com.
Responding to Della Penna's criticism that Dascombe did not suit up for USA in the first 50-over match 'for some bizarre reason', Beazley said, "Dascombe arrived at his hotel room at 1:00 [AM] on the morning of Tuesday March 26th. Responsible elite athlete management would not prescribe that after a few hours's sleep, he be put into a competitive situation." Dascombe had left Brisbane on March 24th and traveled for over 30 hours to be considered, Beazley said.
Noting that he had personally spoken to the entire group for twenty minutes on March 29th at the conclusion of the game reiterating that the squad of 21 players that played in the T20 tournament and the practice matches were leading contenders for national duties in the months ahead.
"I explained that should a player not [be] selected it did not mean that the US Selection and Coaching staff did not have faith in their ability or potential to provide great service to the National team in the future. I reiterated that they are men playing in an international sport and that hard decisions need to be made."
"The players were personally called by the Chairman of the selectors on Saturday 30th and Sunday 31st of March. Each player had the reason for their inclusion or exclusion from the Squad explained to them. I understand that several who were not selected for the Bermuda tournament asked excellent and mature questions on what they needed to address in the next few months to improve their chances," Beazley wrote in an email.
Beazley said that players that were not selected should not view it as a death sentence. "There is a really big year in front of us with Auty Cup in Canada, Bermuda and Dubai coming up. The other guys will come into contention for the Auty Cup. So in two months time, they might play again,” he said.