In part two of DreamCricket's review of USA's tour to Namibia for 2019 WCL Division Two, each player is analyzed to size up their contributions toward USA gaining ODI status.
By Peter Della Penna
For those unfamiliar with how individual players have been graded in the past as part of DreamCricket’s post-tournament report cards, each player is evaluated with regards to their specific role in the team on a match-by-match basis and not based on their overall aggregate stats.
For example, a 20 not out made off 15 balls by a player entering at No. 7 with four overs to go could be regarded as having double the importance of someone who makes 40 off 70 balls opening the batting. Scoring in pressure situations or against higher class bowling is also reflected in grades compared to scoring against weaker bowling or in situations where the pressure is off.
On the bowling side, the same grading standards apply. Bowlers who excel under pressure and against higher quality opposition are graded more favorably. Overall chances created by a bowler are taken into consideration, regardless of whether or not those chances were converted or dropped. Likewise, fielding and fitness contributions are also taken into consideration, with bonus marks for top catching and fielding contributions and deductions for drops or missed chances. In order to receive a grade, a player has to appear in a minimum of 50% of USA’s matches on tour.
With those guidelines laid out, here are DreamCricket’s player grades for 2019 WCL Division Two in Namibia, where USA finished 3-3 and in fourth place but secured ODI status through 2021.
Monank Patel: C
Despite his technical aptitude which is superior to most batsmen in the squad, Monank has developed a bad habit of being unable to convert starts. He made scores of 25 against Oman, 14 v Namibia, 4 v Hong Kong, 25 v Canada and 39 against PNG in the third place playoff.
His best score of 70 not out against PNG in the round-robin stage came after a blown opportunity in the opening over of the chase by Lega Siaka at midwicket, who had three stumps to aim at with a chance to run out Monank at the non-striker’s end before he had faced a ball. It was eerily reminiscent of how Monank should have been runout by Uganda captain Roger Mukasa at midwicket on 0 in the first over of WCL Division Three in Oman before another golden shy at the stumps went wide to allow Monank to score a century.
Curiously, Monank was given the Man of the Match award in the 10-wicket win over PNG at Affies Park. It was a case where stats won out over common sense as Karima Gore and Ali Khan were the genuine match-winners with the ball on a day when PNG was bowled out for 127 after they had chosen to bat first at the toss.
In the field, he missed a chance at deep third man in the first over against Namibia when Stephen Baard slashed Ali Khan to him, but Monank redeemed himself a few overs later in the same spot for his only catch of the tournament.
Statistically, he finished tied for second in runs at the tournament for USA, but his largest score came after he was given a second life chasing USA’s lowest target of the event in a relatively pressure-free context. Monank needs to convert more of his starts, especially against higher-class bowling.
Xavier Marshall: B
Marshall was essential to USA’s success in his first WCL tournament, ending as the team’s leading scorer at Division Two with 182 runs. That also put him seventh overall in the tournament.
He was runout for 8 in freak circumstances at the non-striker’s end against Oman, then edged behind for 2 against Namibia. He found form against PNG with an unbeaten 54 as part of a 128-run stand with Monank in USA’s 10-wicket win. His century against Hong Kong helped clinch ODI status through 2021, though its worth noting he was dropped twice on 20 and 23, the latter a fairly straightforward chance put down by Anshuman Rath at midwicket in the circle. He ended the tournament with another pair of low scores, 7 and 11, against Canada and PNG respectively.
Fielding-wise, Marshall put down a tough low chance at slip off Elmore Hutchinson in the Oman match which would have made it 26 for 4. However, he took two catches including one that was an excellent reaction at slip against Canada after Taylor bobbled at second slip with the ricochet going to Marshall.
Marshall’s contributions with the bat helped USA to two of their three wins, but there is still plenty of room for him to improve his consistency.
Steven Taylor: B+
USA’s No. 3 was tied for second in runs on tour with Monank making 177 at 35.40, but his match-by-match contributions with bat, ball and in the field played a much more pivotal role compared to Monank in USA leaving Namibia with ODI status.
After a painstaking 1 off 18 balls against Oman, he made 44 as part of a key 75-run partnership with Aaron Jones against Namibia to steady the innings after two wickets fell in the first seven overs and it took an outstanding catch on the midwicket boundary by Stephen Baard to remove him. In the field, he blew two runout opportunities but also kept cool to claim the catch at mid-off for the ninth wicket that gave Ali Khan his maiden five-wicket haul.
Against PNG, he took a phenomenal low catch lunging forward at second slip to get Tony Ura for Ali Khan’s first wicket in the third over, then contributed a stifling spell of offspin (6-1-13-1) to help tie down an end in the field. A slight blemish was a tough chance leaping at second slip off Lega Siaka off Ali Khan on 0, who went on to top-score with 32.
On match day four against Hong Kong, it was Taylor who was the driving force in a USA record second-wicket partnership of 184 with Xavier Marshall as Taylor punished the Hong Kong bowling unit for a fluent 88 off 95 balls while Marshall grafted at the other end, then followed it up taking the new ball and striking in the fifth over to get Jamie Atkinson.
In the round-robin finale against Canada, he got Nitish Kumar driving to extra cover to break a 125-run stand and also should have had Navneet Dhaliwal for 72 had Jaskaran Malhotra not put down a leg side chance. He was at the crease for both runouts in USA’s chase, though a strong case can be made that neither was his fault and he looked in excellent touch during his 44 off 66 balls before he was sold down the river by Malhotra in a situation where both wound up at the same end. For the sake of the team, Malhotra should have sacrificed himself and USA’s chase fizzled once Taylor was gone.
In USA’s final match of the tournament against PNG, he was out first ball, caught off guard by a yorker from Nosaina Pokana fresh after arriving to the crease.
Even though he didn’t make a century, his pair of innings against Namibia and Hong Kong were extremely valuable in the context of USA achieving ODI status. He only took three wickets, but each came at a key time and his 3.81 economy rate in 37 overs was second only to Saurabh Netravalkar for USA on tour for players who played at least half of USA’s matches in the event and helped restrict scoring on pitches where taking wickets was not easy for spinners. Taylor has had tournaments where his raw stats have been bigger but not nearly as important as the situations he delivered in at WCL Division Two.
Aaron Jones: B-
USA’s most consistent batsman coming into the tour of Namibia only made one big score at WCL Division Two, but it helped set USA up for a memorable win against the tournament hosts.
Jones opened up the tournament caught down the leg side for 2 against Oman but followed it up with an unbeaten 103 off 124 balls against Namibia that was just enough for USA to win by two runs. He wasn’t needed against PNG and USA management curiously opted to keep him at No. 4 when the second wicket finally fell in the 40th
over instead of sending in a microwave basher like Malhotra or Silva. The result was Jones taking five balls to get off the mark before he bashed a pair of sixes and then was caught on the boundary at long-off for 16 off 11 balls.
In the Canada match, he was USA’s last genuine hope of chasing down the target of 256 after the Taylor/Malhotra runout debacle, but he fell at the end of the 43rd
on one of his bread and butter shots, trying to run a single to third man, and instead edged behind for 33 as the seventh wicket. In the playoff match against PNG, he edged behind once more, this time driving outside off for 2. He ended as USA’s fourth highest scorer on tour with 156 runs at 39.00.
In the field, he took two catches. One came against Hong Kong when Jamie Atkinson gift-wrapped a half-tracker to square leg off Taylor’s bowling in the Powerplay. The other was a simple take at mid-off in the Namibia chase after Gerhard Erasmus mistimed a slap when trying to charge Netravalkar to end a 149-run stand.
Jones wasn’t as consistent from match to match as he was in Oman at Division Three nor as he was on the tour of Dubai in March, but he still made his presence felt in USA’s journey to ODI status in Namibia.
Jaskaran Malhotra: C-
One of the hardest players to grade at this event, Malhotra’s most significant contribution actually came in a statistically modest innings on paper against Namibia whereas his highest statistical score against Canada was blighted by his role in Steven Taylor’s runout. Following his weak scoring output in Oman while opening the batting with Monank Patel, he was bumped down the order to make room for Xavier Marshall and fared little better, ending with the lowest average for any recognized batsman on tour with 66 runs at 13.20.
In the first match against Oman, he made 8 off 24 balls before slapping a catch back to left-arm spinning allrounder captain Zeeshan Maqsood. Malhotra showed courage resuming his innings after being hit in the head and retiring hurt on 3 after 16 overs, needing an ambulance ride to a local hospital for concussion tests. But he didn’t seem completely all there mentally upon his return after the fall of Silva for the seventh wicket at 129 for 7 in the 31st
over. Malhotra lasted another 10 balls before he was the eighth wicket to fall in the 34th
over in a situation where USA needed someone to show responsibility to stretch out the innings on a day when another 20-30 runs would have probably been enough to win.
Against Namibia, he only made 8 off 3 balls but it was a hugely significant and unselfish innings as he came in with 16 balls to go and rightly tried to boost USA’s total by any means necessary, hitting two boundaries before being caught trying to whack a third and the runs were important in the context of USA’s two-run win.
Malhotra didn’t need to bat against PNG and while he was out second-ball against Hong Kong entering in the 45th
over in a similar scenario to how he arrived against Namibia looking to hit big runs late, it was not the most intelligent dismissal and showed in some ways several USA players hadn’t quite learned the lessons on offer in Dubai on how to utilize wind. Rather than waiting to go big in the even overs with the wind at his back at United CC, Malhotra tried to muscle a slog through the wind and was easily caught well inside the rope off the bowling of Aizaz Khan.
As noted above, Malhotra top-scored in USA’s chase against Canada, but was also arguably the reason the chase fell apart for his role in the Taylor runout. Entering that innings, he had 16 runs in Namibia and he was on 32 when the incident with Taylor occurred. If he had plenty of runs in his account at that stage of the tour, there’s a high probability he would have sacrificed himself for Taylor but it seemed he had it in the back of his mind that he wanted to make up for lost time. He didn’t even raise his bat after reaching 50, a sign that he knew he had goofed up in the Taylor runout incident, then promptly fell clipping Nikhil Dutta to Davy Jacobs at midwicket. He rounded off his tour with the bat dragging on for a golden duck on ODI debut against PNG.
With the gloves, he was fourth among keepers in the tournament with eight dismissals. His only significant miscue was spilling Navneet Dhaliwal down the leg side off Taylor’s offspin on 72 and the opener went on to make 121 not out.
After a breakout tour in February 2018 in which he was USA’s leading scorer at the CWI Super50, which in turn helped him get snapped up by St. Lucia Stars in the CPL, Malhotra has been underwhelming with the bat in 50-over cricket for USA. He made 75 runs in seven innings in the most recent CWI Super50 in October, fared somewhat better with 140 runs in five innings at Division Three in Oman, though his best of 66 not out on the last day against Singapore came in largely pressure-free circumstances. His lone 50+ score on the March tour of Dubai was a 90 against a UAE Development XI and the lean stretch continued in Namibia.
Malhotra’s wicketkeeping is fairly assured, but his status as USA’s vice-captain may become a bit more tenuous if he can’t produce more consistently with the bat. The best thing in his favor is that there isn’t a quality replacement waiting in the wings to put pressure on him for his spot.
Hayden Walsh Jr.: C+
USA’s MVP from the tour of Oman for WCL Division Three was not as productive with bat or ball in Namibia, but still managed to make an impact when it mattered. Overall, he scored 100 runs in five innings with one half-century and took just one wicket in 28 overs.
Like just about everyone else, he failed against Oman, making 8 before being bowled trying to flick across the line. He bounced back the next day by teaming with Jones for a USA record-equaling 127-run fourth-wicket stand. He ended with 57 and then nearly produced the match-clinching wicket in the final over of the chase with a direct hit from 55 yards on the boundary at wide long-on.
Walsh Jr. didn’t bat or bowl on his 27th
birthday in the 10-wicket win over PNG, then was bowled slogging for 7 in the 49th
over against Hong Kong. He was out first ball to Romesh Eranga the next day against Canada in a chase that rapidly fell apart. On the final day against PNG in the third place match, he led a fantastic counter-attack with 27 off 35 balls in a 43-run stand with Monank Patel, USA’s biggest partnership of the match, before chipping loosely to midwicket.
With the ball, his only wicket on the week came against Hong Kong when Tanwir Afzal skied a catch to extra cover. He should have probably had two more wickets in that match but his end figures of 1 for 58 were unfairly skewed by some truly horrendous misjudgments by Nosthush Kenjige on the long-on boundary, who three times ran in from the rope only for balls to land over his head and bounce over for four.
Against Oman (5-1-16-0), Namibia (4-0-21-0) and Canada (8-0-38-0), he actually bowled quite decent spells but went without a wicket on each occasion. His only catch on the week was in the Oman match, taken at backward point to dismiss Aqib Ilyas for a golden duck. However, he was generally the leader in the field and saved countless runs whether attacking the ball in the ring to cut off singles or giving chase to pull back balls before going over the boundary. Walsh Jr. is an indispensible part of the USA squad as they enter Cricket World Cup League Two.
Roy Silva: D
There’s no way to sugarcoat how disappointing the tour was for Silva. The allrounder continues to have a big question mark hanging over him for the number of opportunities he receives despite regularly failing to deliver with the bat.
Silva’s best statistical contribution came when he top-scored with 33 off 23 balls against Oman in the tournament opener. But in reality it was a failure when considering he needed to show responsibility to stay in and bat with the tail. Instead, he got carried away having hit a six off the previous ball and followed it by slashing a catch to third man on the boundary.
He was dropped for the win over Namibia, then brought back to face PNG on match day three. He should have had a wicket off his very first ball, but Karima Gore spilled a sitter at deep midwicket. Silva was also a culprit a short time later with a poor reaction to a chance that came his way on the deep fine leg boundary with Kiplin Doriga on 9 that would have given Ali Khan a fourth wicket. Doriga went on to make 30 before Silva caught him off Timil Patel for the ninth wicket.
Against Hong Kong, he curiously tried to smash Kinchit Shah through a strong crosswind and wound up being caught 15 yards inside the boundary for 3. Against Canada, he bowled five tame overs that conceded 32, then once again was at fault denying Ali Khan a wicket on the final ball of the Canada innings after running in too far for a skier off the bat of Dhaliwal that wound up landing behind him for two runs instead of a fourth wicket for Khan. Silva then failed once again with the bat in the chase being bowled for 8 by Romesh Eranga when USA needed 80 off 57 balls. He was subsequently dropped for the ODI against PNG in the third place playoff.
In addition to making just 44 runs in three innings, Silva went wicketless on the week in 11 overs. It would be one thing if Silva was compensating for this with sharp fielding, but he was a liability both in the air – missing two chances off Ali Khan, one each against PNG and Canada – and also along the ground where he regularly fumbled collections coming in off the boundary.
Silva turns 39 on May 9. If team management is taking an eye towards the 2023 World Cup (in which case Silva will be 42 when the tournament takes place in India) as part of playing 36 ODIs in CWC League Two, it’s hard to make a case for keeping Silva around for the start of the League Two matches in July. They may need to have another chat about whether it is even worthwhile to keep him in plans for USA’s T20 World Cup qualification pathway at Bermuda in August and the UAE in October as well when there are younger players capable of making bigger contributions, whether it is with the bat, ball or in the field.
Timil Patel: A-
After looking like he was on his last legs in North Carolina last September, 35-year-old Timil has rewarded USA team management for keeping faith in him by making A level contributions both at WCL Division Three in Oman and once again at WCL Division Two in Namibia. Whereas in Oman, he got high marks after being USA’s leading wicket-taker, the bulk of his grade for Namibia was the result of his incredibly impactful contributions with the bat.
In the opener against Oman, he was one of the few USA batsmen who showed some spine, making 20 as part of a 45-run partnership with Silva and was looking comfortable negotiating a tricky pitch before edging Zeeshan Maqsood’s left-arm spin to slip to make it 104 for 6 after 28. USA couldn’t make it through the next 10 overs after Timil got out. With the ball, he bowled a tame spell, returning 0 for 23 in 4.5 overs.
Against Namibia, he made one of the most significant contributions of the match for USA, one which has been largely ignored or at best remembered as a small footnote in the wake of the century by Aaron Jones, the five-for by Ali Khan and the match-clinching runout by Saurabh Netravalkar. Timil entered off strike with four balls to go in the innings. After a single to put him on strike, he couldn’t get JJ Smit away. But on the penultimate ball of the innings, he clubbed a magnificent straight six before being runout trying to steal a bye off the final ball. Without that six to take USA to 250, Namibia wins the match instead of USA stealing it by two runs. It may go down as the most underappreciated 6-off-3-ball innings ever scored by a USA No. 8 batsman. In the chase, he never really threatened to take wickets, but at least restricted scoring as best he could during a 10-over spell of 0 for 36.
Against PNG, he took 2 for 26 to help knock over the tail quickly after the earlier damage done by Khan and Karima Gore in USA’s 10-wicket win. Then against Hong Kong he once again lifted USA at No. 8, making a glorious 34 not out off 12 balls to make up for a major wobble by the middle-order. Unlike Malhotra and Silva who unwisely tried to smash through the wind, Timil intelligently seized scoring opportunities with the wind. He reverse swept/switch hit Kinchit Shah over backward point in the 49th
using the wind as his aid behind square, then smashed the last two balls of the innings off Aizaz Khan over long-on with the wind at his back for a pair of sixes. He then came out in the field and took 1 for 23 in ten overs with the ball, including the key wicket of Kinchit Shah who top-scored for Hong Kong with 45 before yanking a pull to Gore on the leg side. Timil also took two catches, including a difficult skier in the ring fighting off the wind.
He sat out the Canada match to rest his shoulder before coming back for the finale against PNG, scoring USA’s maiden ODI fifty. Had Ali Khan been able to hang around a bit longer, Timil might have added another 20 or 30 more for USA in the last six overs, if not more. He then took 2 for 32 with the ball in seven overs.
Timil ended the tournament topping the averages for USA with 110 in four innings at 55.00. Had he not been run out trying to steal a bye off the final ball against Namibia, it would have been an average of 110, which would have been a just reflection of how important he was to USA on the week with the bat with his lower-order hitting.
On the bowling side, Timil was not the usual statistical behemoth from the past, but still made valuable contributions at times. The only worry going forward is how much longer he can continue to operate with a right shoulder that needs constant attention from the physio, especially since he’ll be 39 by the end of the 2023 World Cup cycle.
Karima Gore: B
USA’s second-leading wicket taker on tour behind Ali Khan, the 20-year-old kept his poise in impressive fashion while making his WCL tournament debut with so much at stake.
After sitting out the opener against Oman, Gore came into the lineup for the next match against Namibia and never came out again. He opened the bowling with Ali Khan, returning 4-1-18-0 doing a decent job tying up one end while Khan removed both openers at the other. Later on, he suckered Craig Williams into driving in the air to Kenjige at cover sweeper, one of the turning points of the chase for Namibia’s fifth wicket at a time when they needed just 46 off 39 balls.
The next match against Papua New Guinea, Gore really should have won Man of the Match for his 4 for 23, but it was strangely given to Monank Patel where raw stats won out over context in a 10-wicket thrashing. Against Hong Kong, he got one of the two big fish in the opposition lineup, inducing a skied return catch from Babar Hayat and also claimed Shahid Wasif to end with 2 for 49, not to mention two other catches.
In the Canada match, he failed to make a breakthrough, ending with 0 for 44 in eight overs but Canada will never forget his name after he shepherded the tail with 21 not out from No. 8. In spite of a 40-run loss by USA, he helped get past the magic number of 212 to ensure Canada finished out of the fourth ODI slot on the net run rate tiebreaker, a sequence that will add spice to the North American rivalry for years to come.
In the third place match against PNG, he tried to smash a garbage ball from legspinner CJ Amini but did so against the spin and the result was a skied catch in the ring for 6. He proceeded to get a pasting from Norman Vanua in the 33rd
over, giving up 22 runs in the six balls that clinched victory to end with figures of 0 for 44 in six overs.
Amongst outfielders, Gore led USA with four catches on the week and only had one really bad drop, spilling a sitter at deep midwicket off Silva’s very first ball in the round-robin match against Papua New Guinea. He also supplanted Kenjige as USA’s main left-arm spinner and though he still has plenty of areas to improve upon, looks to be a player USA can build on as part of their squad nucleus for the CWC League Two.
Saurabh Netravalkar: B-
USA’s captain showed the hidden value of bowling in partnerships. Though he only took five wickets in the tournament, he deserved an assist for a bulk of the ones taken by Ali Khan during the Powerplay for the way he tied down one end and built dot ball pressure. It is best evidenced by Netravalkar’s tournament-best 12 maidens, four more than the next closest player, Oman’s Bilal Khan. He was the second most economical bowler in the tournament behind PNG captain Assad Vala for anyone who bowled at least two overs per team game in the tournament, ending with a 3.22 economy rate in 48.4 overs.
Netravalkar returned 0 for 27 in 10 overs against Oman, but started off the match with three straight maidens as Ali Khan struck three times in the Powerplay at the other end. Against Namibia, he had 3 for 56, including the key scalps of Gerhard Erasmus for 92 to break a 149-run stand and Jean Bredenkamp for 55 in the followind over. He then had Player of the Tournament JJ Smit in the 48th
for the sixth wicket before completing the match-winning runout in the final over, keeping his cool to underhand into the stumps from a few yards out, though he actually would have beaten Zhivago Groenewald in a foot race to the stumps too.
Another stifling spell of 7-3-10-0 against PNG flew under the radar while Ali Khan made three new-ball strikes at the other end in USA’s 10-wicket win. Against Hong Kong he took figures of 5-2-14-1 in a heavy win to clinch ODI status. In the last round-robin match against Canada, he again produced solid but not incisive figures of 10-1-35-0. His first seven overs went for 14 before he conceded a very respectable 21 runs in three slog overs, though to be fair Canada showed little intent in each of those overs to swing big in the last 10.
In the last match against PNG, he tried to dig in with the bat to make 11 off 31 balls before driving a catch in the ring as Timil ran out of partners. Then with the ball he claimed 7-2-21-1, striking with the new ball for the first time all tournament in claiming Tony Ura caught behind in the seventh over.
On his bowling alone, Netravalkar would have gotten an A- for the way he strangled the run rate at the start of most innings to support Ali Khan as well as for his underrated death bowling utilizing an array of cutters. But Netravalkar gets downgraded for his noticeably poor fielding as well as for some incredibly conservative field settings and tactics in situations where USA could or should have been attacking much more.
In the opening match against Oman, his lack of aggressive field settings keeping the field spread when USA needed to take all 10 wickets to have any hope of winning was noticeable, especially in comparison to the way Zeeshan Maqsood operated, keeping slips in and only two men on the boundary for almost the entirety of the USA innings. Then there was the baffling non-use of Ali Khan with the match hanging in the balance in the final 10 overs when his first seven overs yielded a return of 4 for 17. Having been brought back for a solitary over in the 40th in which he conceded a six as part of a 10-run over, he was immediately taken back out of the attack as Oman milked singles the rest of the way to clinch victory with 13 balls to spare. It meant that the man who took all four wickets for USA on the day somehow managed to bowl only eight overs.
In the first PNG match, USA had four men on the boundary at the start of the 36th over and no catching fielders in place when Ali Khan returned for a final spell having taken three wickets with the new ball. If a scoreboard wasn't visible, one would have thought based on the field settings that PNG were 200 for 3 at that stage when in reality they were 109 for 8. The field had been needlessly pushed back when PNG had only driven over the top of mid-on or mid-off for a boundary just once at that stage in the innings. Marshall eventually came into slip for Khan, but after a four clipped through midwicket by tailender Nosaina Pokana, Marshall started to jog away before Malhotra cajoled Netravalkar into keeping Marshall in as a lone catching fielder for the tournament’s most devastating bowler.
One of the few memorable instances in which Netravalkar actually set a noticeably aggressive field was at the start of the Hong Kong chase when a forward short leg was put in place with Steven Taylor bowling offspin to the opening pair of Jamie Atkinson and Anshuman Rath. It demonstrated how desperate USA's bowlers were to get Rath out, since he was the only reliable batsman in Hong Kong’s lineup and the tournament’s leading scorer.
But again Netravalkar fell back into defensive mode on the final day in the third place match against PNG. Defending 164 and needing to take 10 wickets with no chance of stretching the chase to the full 50 overs, he had the field spread and no slip in for Karima Gore upon returning to the attack at 131 for 5 in 30 overs despite the fact that Gore had spun USA to victory against the same team just a few days earlier. Gore’s first ball in his second spell was edged by Sese Bau through vacant slip whereas a catch would have exposed PNG’s brittle tail. Instead, Norman Vanua ended the match in the 33rd
with some brutal slogging.
Khan was again M.I.A. on that occasion against PNG after a five-over new-ball spell. In the context of the tournament, the situation perhaps wasn’t worth risking injury bringing Khan back at the end of a physically taxing week. But looking through the standalone lens of trying to win a match, it was yet another headscratcher to see Netravalkar not attempting to bring Khan back for at least one more spell.
Much of Netravalkar’s field settings and tactics appear to be done by rote rather than thinking proactively about what is happening around him on the field of play. It’s an area he needs to work on heading into CWC League Two.
Ali Khan: A
The highest graded player on tour, nobody made a bigger impact for USA in Namibia than the Ohio speedster. He was the tournament’s leading wicket-taker with 17 at an average of 12.88 and an economy of 4.56. He also had four chances dropped off his bowling too, which would have made his figures even more eye-popping.
It all started with the chase against Oman in which he ripped out three wickets in the Powerplay and later took a fourth in the form of captain Zeeshan Maqsood when momentum had shifted Oman’s way, which made it all the more bizarre that he ended the day bowling just eight overs. As if out to prove that he should have been used for a full 10 overs a day earlier, Khan produced his greatest ever performance for USA a day later against Namibia. After claiming both openers with the new ball, his 49th
over in which he claimed three wickets when Namibia needed 14 off 12 balls with four wickets in hand will go down as a seminal moment in USA cricket history.
Against PNG, he ripped out the top three in his first five overs, and could have had a second consecutive five-for had Taylor not spilled Lega Siaka in the slips and Silva held onto a top-edged hook by Kiplin Doriga at deep fine leg. A day later against Hong Kong, he claimed just one wicket in six overs but it was the biggest one of all trapping Anshuman Rath with a yorker for 7.
Against Canada, he took somewhat expensive figures of 3 for 65 but it should have been four had Silva properly judged a skier on the last ball of the innings by Dhaliwal instead of overrunning it. He rounded off his tournament with perhaps the most aesthetically pleasing wicket of all, getting Assad Vala for a second time on the week, this time shouldering arms to an inswinger on the first ball after Khan decided to change his angle from around to over the wicket.
In the fielding department, Khan is generally reliable. He coasted to a catch on the midwicket rope against Namibia to dismiss Jean Bredenkamp for Netravalkar’s second wicket of the day, his only grab on the week. He spilled a skier running backwards on USA’s final ball of the tournament by Norman Vanua, which turned into the winning run for PNG in their five-wicket win on the last day. The only other real marks against him were his inability to hang at the crease against Oman and then with Timil Patel on 50 to extend the innings against PNG in the third place match, but the true failures on those occasions were with the recognized batsmen.
At the end of the day, a serious argument can be made that USA would not have beaten Namibia, would not have beaten PNG by 10 wickets (though they might still have won that match in another way) and might not have left Namibia with ODI status were it not for Khan’s presence on tour. Behind his 17 wickets, the next closest player for USA was Karima Gore with 7 and there were long stretches in every match where Khan looked like the only USA player capable of taking wickets.
At age 28, Khan is realistically only going to have one major run at getting USA to a World Cup in 2023 because speed merchants like him tend to break down by their mid 30s, and that’s not even taking into consideration his documented hamstring and back issues which have popped up on and off over the last three years. Teammates and fans need to relish these next four years through CWC League Two on the pathway to the 2023 World Cup because with USA’s inattentiveness to grassroots development, it may take another generation to find someone of Khan’s quality before USA is able to have another serious crack.
Elmore Hutchinson – Incomplete
The 36-year-old’s usage, or more accurately his non-usage, confounds plenty of observers who follow USA. He started the tournament in USA’s XI, returning figures of 10-3-23-0 against Oman, and would have had a wicket in his third over had Xavier Marshall not dropped Zeeshan Maqsood at slip on 10 at 26 for 3 in the 15th
over, who went on to make a key 27 in a low-scoring chase. Hutchinson also made 9 not out in the Oman match after entering at No. 10.
He was never seen again the rest of the tournament. He is USA’s joint leader among active players in matches played in 50-over cricket for USA, having suited up 57 times – the same as Timil Patel – and is ranked second all-time in wickets behind Timil with 63 scalps at 21.57 and an economy rate of 3.94.
It was only this past October that he took a career-best 5 for 42 against CCC in the CWI Super50, the same CCC team that went on to win the whole tournament. He’s also 12th
overall in runs in USA’s 50-over history, having proven himself time and again as a capable lower-order hitter. Hutchinson still appears to have plenty in the tank, whether it’s batting, bowling or fielding (remember he made Sportscenter’s Top 10 Plays in September with a diving catch at the ICC Americas T20 Regional Qualifier in North Carolina) and offers another left-arm pace option that teams often struggle with.
But for some reason team leadership has sent a thinly veiled message via his non-selection that they feel differently. If they are going to stubbornly not play him in spite of his very handy skillset, it would be better to bring a younger player into the squad as a reserve to get some experience rather than have a 36-year-old warm the bench.
Nosthush Kenjige – Incomplete
For the second WCL tournament in a row, Kenjige has been fairly anonymous. Six months ago, he looked like he had the primary left-arm spinner’s spot locked down for the next decade and earned a reputation as USA’s best fielder. Now, he is neither. As a result, his place in the team going forward is far from assured.
Just a month after taking five wickets in a magnificent spell to beat Lancashire, Kenjige only played two matches. Picked as a specialist spinner against Namibia, he bowled just three overs, returning 0 for 15, and never looked like he would be brought back into the attack. He took a catch on the cover sweeper boundary off Craig Williams to give Netravalkar one of his three wickets.
Then against Canada, he again lacked bite, returning 0 for 20 in four overs before he was gone for the day. After taking a hat-trick in the 2017 Auty Cup in King City, he showed he could find another way to be a thorn in Canada’s side making 9 not out, including the last-over boundary cut behind point off Saad Bin Zafar that dropped Canada below PNG on net run rate for the final ODI berth in Namibia.
As a sub fielder, he was shockingly poor against Hong Kong, running in from the long-on boundary on three consecutive skied chances that fell behind him and went over for four each time as he never seemed to get a handle on the wind. It wound up costing Hayden Walsh in particular.
Kenjige is still well-regarded by team management for his character, attitude and commitment to training. But based on performance, he is now facing a bit of pressure to keep his spot. Age is on his side though and if Timil can’t maintain his fitness with his ongoing shoulder issue, then Kenjige will have more opportunities to reestablish his presence.
Jessy Singh – Incomplete
USA’s reserve fast bowler on tour, Singh only appeared in the third place playoff once ODI status had been secured. He struggled in making a 12-ball duck against PNG, eventually given out leg before to a yorker that looked like it was sliding down leg. He then took 1 for 23 with the ball in four overs, highlighting his usual positives – wicket-taking ability – with the negatives – gets carried away searching for a magic ball and instead gets driven for boundaries. Singh might never be a regular first-choice bowler as long as Ali Khan and Saurabh Netravalkar are playing for USA, but he’s a decent alternative in the event that anyone goes down injured.
Coming up in Part 3 - USA's outlook for Cricket World Cup League Two
Click here to read Part 1 - Team Grades
[Views expressed in this article are those of the author, who was present at all of the team's matches on tour. If you have differing views or opinions, we respect those views and urge you to provide your feedback, both positive and negative. Free free to respond to the author via Twitter @PeterDellaPenna