Check out the team grades and individual player evaluations for USA's 14-man squad in North Carolina and their prospects for the upcoming Cricket West Indies Super50 and WCL Division Three in Oman
By Peter Della Penna (Twitter @PeterDellaPenna)
Batting – B-: USA’s top-order was impressive spearheaded by the top order trio of Jaskaran Malhotra, Monank Patel and Steven Taylor. Beyond those three, the rest of the lineup largely failed to fire, albeit in limited opportunities. The next best scores over the entire week were Sunny Sohal’s 42 not out v Panama & 38 v Canada and Elmore Hutchinson’s 21 v Canada. The collective failure of the middle order continues.
Bowling – C: There were good contributions from Nosthush Kenjige (12 wickets) and Roy Silva (7 wickets), but this tournament was more memorable for the lack of contributions from USA’s big guns. Ali Khan, Saurabh Netravalkar and Timil Patel combined for eight wickets in a combined 38 overs between them whereas debutant Usman Ashraf took that many by himself across eight overs in three games to be USA’s second highest wicket-taker.
Worryingly, USA failed to bowl out Panama on both occasions they played them, a team that Canada steamrolled for scores of 42 and 40, and needed until the final ball of the 20th over before they took 10 wickets against Belize in the second time they played them. Panama’s total of 94 for 8 against USA the second time around was also two more runs than Panama made against Belize a day earlier. In spite of their firepower on paper, all signs point to USA struggling to take wickets at WCL Division Three in Oman.
Fielding – D: USA missed a total of 16 chances across the tournament, with their worst showing coming in the fourth match against Panama when six chances were missed. By comparison, Canada missed just five chances through the entire week. USA’s energy in the field was consistently poor. With the exception of Elmore Hutchinson’s Sportscenter-making catch as well as the consistent efforts of Kenjige, Monank and David Wakefield, the collective fielding standard was average to below average.
USA’s fielding was absolutely horrendous at both WCL Division Four in Los Angeles and WCL Division Three in Uganda. They got away with it in Los Angeles but it cost them dearly in a failed effort to secure promotion in Uganda. Barring a miracle transformation over the next month in Barbados, the outlook is not good for their ability to capitalize on chances when the pressure is on in Oman.
Individual Player Evaluations (No grades due to heavily unbalanced sample set)
Jaskaran Malhotra – Named Best Batsman of the tournament, provided solid foundations at the top of the order. Got a little carried away charging down the wicket unnecessarily in the second match against Canada when he’d already clubbed two sixes in the over and edged behind. Now faces added pressure to perform by taking over the responsibility of wicketkeeping in the wake of Ibrahim Khaleel’s axing from the squad.
Monank Patel – The tournament’s leading scorer, Monank bullied the lesser teams but had two failures against Canada with scores of 9 & 0. He was a major asset in the field taking six catches, the most for any non-wicketkeeper at the tournament. Needs to show that he can do what he did to Panama and Belize against better competition in the Super50.
Steven Taylor – The former captain failed to take advantage of three full tosses from Cecil Pervez in the Super Over that USA lost by runs to Canada. Given an opportunity to redeem himself a few days later in the final over against Junaid Siddiqui when the six-ball target was even steeper, Taylor exorcised his demons bashing 22 off five balls. His 15-ball half-century a day later against Belize showed that unbeaten 96 off 54 balls against Canada may prove to be a turning point in reigniting a career that has floundered since a late night drinking incident in the summer of 2013 which resulted in a brief suspension.
Taylor’s bowling continues to be a major asset for USA as he took four wickets in limited opportunities, including two in an over against Canada. As for his fielding, Taylor was USA’s biggest liability in North Carolina, dropping three chances and needs to overcome casual lapses in focus.
Sunny Sohal – USA’s fourth highest scorer on the week, though that is a deceptive stat. Struggled against Canada both times, starting off 10 in 20 balls before ending 38 off 39, which although it was a top score arguably cost USA with his early slow scoring in the tied match, then followed it up being dismissed third ball against them the second time around. He made an unbeaten 42 off 19 balls against Panama, an innings in which he had only one dot ball, but needs to prove he can score as efficiently against higher echelon teams. Average in the field and needs improving.
Ibrahim Khaleel – The captain led USA to the tournament title, though his use of bowlers brought question marks. If Timil Patel was being picked to play against Canada, he should have bowled more than one over each time. If the captain had no confidence in his bowling, something that Steven Taylor similarly demonstrated with regards to Timil in Uganda at WCL Division Three, Timil should not have been picked. The non-use seemed to be justified though as it resulted in a tie and a win. However, his rotation of bowlers overall in the tied match was arguably bungled when Elmore Hutchinson, not a death specialist, was left to bowl the final over and could not do the job.
As for his batting, Khaleel failed both times against Canada with scores of 4 & 1, his only innings in North Carolina. But if the team was being picked for 50-over cricket, as was mentioned by coach Pubudu Dassanayake in an interview during the tournament, two low scores in a T20 event is a flimsy reason to be sacked if USA Cricket’s characterization of Khaleel being dropped for “performance” is to be believed.
Roy Silva – A renowned batting bully in club cricket, Silva has been a consistently poor run producer at international level and that didn’t change in North Carolina with scores of 13 and 8 against Canada. At the moment, there is little expectation that he will contribute runs despite the fact he is being picked to bat in the top 7, so anything he scores is a bonus. On the flip side, he continues to be a canny bowler and led all medium pacers with 7 wickets, making contributions at key moments.
Timil Patel – The question mark lingering over his status in the squad during the last 18 months only got bigger in North Carolina. Timil was used for one over in each match against Canada, going wicketless on both occasions. Against Panama the second time around, he had figures of 4-3-8-0, but never once threatened to bowl a wicket-taking ball.
His production output looks even more damning when weighed up next to fellow leggie Usman Ashraf, who had no trouble scything through Belize for 5 wickets on the last day of the tournament. Once USA’s biggest match-winner with the ball, Timil’s status as a first-choice selection is increasingly tenuous heading into the start of the Super50, particularly if Ashraf’s development is accelerated. Timil still offers some value with the bat, having scored a crucial 17 in the rematch with Canada, and was above average in the field with several catches and a runout, but his main role is supposed to be with the ball and if he’s no longer a threat then he may soon be out of the XI.
Elmore Hutchinson – The allrounder continues to be an unsung player in the USA lineup. He took six wickets in just 11 overs in North Carolina and scored a late 21 in the first match against Canada that boosted USA to a competitive total in an eventual tie. Also took a highlight reel catch early in the tournament diving at long off. His only major blemish was his failure to hold off Rizwan Cheema's charge in the 20th over of the first match against Canada, though one could argue he was unfairly thrust into the role of bowling the final over considering he is not a death over specialist and the result was a last-ball six by Rizwan Cheema to send the match to a Super Over which USA lost. Overall, Hutchinson performed about as expected.
Saurabh Netravalkar – Only took two wickets on the week in 18 overs, the worst strike rate by far of any bowler. One could argue he was trialing out various plans in advance of the 50-over competitions to come but it is slightly worrying that such a skilled bowler did not find the edge more often. With the captaincy now on his plate, the expectation to perform will be even greater.
Ali Khan – For someone who was in the Caribbean Premier League Team of the Tournament after starring for Trinbago Knight Riders in their CPL 2018 championship run, his return of no wickets against Canada in both matches against USA's archrival was disappointing. Much greater things are expected of him when he returns to the squad for Division Three after skipping the Super50 in Barbados to play for Kabul in the Afghanistan Premier League held in the UAE.
Usman Ashraf – A mixed bag overall. Took one wicket in a so-so debut. In his second match against Panama, he could hardly land the ball on the pitch but still managed to take two wickets. In his third match against Belize, everything came together and he regularly challenged their batsmen, winding up with a hat-trick amongst a five-wicket haul, a scene that would have produced a big lump in the throat of Timil Patel sitting on the sidelines. The pressure will mount on Timil if Ashraf can be a consistent and reliable wicket-taking option.
Nosthush Kenjige – Cemented his place as USA’s best spinner and arguably the first name on the team sheet by finishing as the leading wicket-taker in the tournament with 12. Unlike other bowlers in the team, he showed the ability to adjust his lines, flight and pace depending on the standard of batting he was facing, making him a consistent wicket-taker whether it was against Panama, Belize or Canada. He is a livewire in the field at backward point, making him one of USA’s best fielding assets too.
Jannisar Khan – Only took one wicket in seven overs bowling three matches against the lesser two teams in the tournament and cost himself another with a no ball overstepping the crease. One other chance was put down off his bowling but on the whole he did not threaten to take wickets, a worrying sign considering the standard of batting will only be higher in Barbados and Oman.
Coming out of the Texas selection camp in June, he appeared to be picked more for his batting, but only came to the crease once in North Carolina. With Jessy Singh brought into the USA squad for the Super50, Jannisar will be under heavy pressure to keep his place in the final group of 14 picked to go to Oman.
David Wakefield – Only played two games and never got to bat. Spent plenty of time on the field in other matches as a very valuable substitute fielder and was involved in one runout. It’s clear to see why selectors chose him as a member of the broader squad, but flying a guy out from New Zealand to be a fielding specialist is something a lot of other US-based players could have easily accomplished.
Similarly, it seems unlikely Wakefield agreed to skip his early season commitments with Canterbury’s first-class squad in Christchurch if he knew it would amount to carrying drinks and being a specialist sub fielder for USA. The tour of Barbados will go some way toward producing evidence to show if his batting makes his presence worthwhile in the long term.
(Photo of Steven Taylor courtesy of Peter Della Penna/Dreamcricket.com)