USA Cricket: 2021 ODI Tour of Oman Report Card Part 2 – Player Grades

2021 Sep 27 by DreamCricket USA

Part Two of DreamCricket's report card of the six-match 2021 ODI tour of Oman presents the player grades featuring Monank Patel, the highest graded player on tour. 

File image credit: Peter Della Penna

By Peter Della Penna (Twitter @PeterDellaPenna)
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 solely based on aggregate stats. 
Players who excel under pressure and against higher quality opposition are graded more favorably. Overall chances given by a batsman, as well as overall chances created by a bowler, are taken into consideration regardless of total runs scored or wickets taken. Bonus marks are given for good fielding while a player can also be downgraded for weak fielding including dropped chances. Players must also play in a minimum of 50% of the matches on tour to receive a grade.
With those guidelines laid out, here are DreamCricket’s player grades for the 2021 tour of Oman for two ODIs against Papua New Guinea and four ODIs as part of Cricket World Cup League Two tri-series against Nepal and hosts Oman. USA finished with a record of 3-3 on tour, including 1-3 in the tri-series to leave with a possible two out of eight points added to their total on the CWC League Two points table. 
Steven Taylor: B
A major bounceback after his colossal failure in USA’s tour of Nepal in February 2020 where he scored four runs in three innings and was dropped for the 35 all out debacle. We’ll never know if Taylor would have been dropped from the USA squad had the home April 2020 ODI series against Scotland and UAE not been postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. But it’s clear that nobody benefited more from the extended break than Taylor to reassert his credentials on the USA domestic scene. 
Taylor has also benefited drastically from the change of head coach as J Arunkumar made the wise decision to move Taylor back to the top of the order and gave him a license to swing big. It paid off in a pair of Player of the Match awards as Taylor finished with 216 runs at an average of 36.00 including two half-centuries. It was his first time finishing with more than 200 runs in an official 50-over tour for USA since 2016 WCL Division Four in Los Angeles, which was nine tours ago. 
To be clear, Taylor also benefited from poor fielding too. Both of his bruising, match-winning half-centuries, 82 off 55 balls against PNG and 92 off 63 balls against Nepal, came after he was dropped before reaching 50. But the intimidation factor he consistently brings is hard to match, whether in the USA squad or elsewhere in Associate cricket. He broke Nisarg Patel’s record for fastest ODI half-century for USA by getting to the mark off 31 balls, then equaled the previous 32-ball record in his next half-century. 
As for his bowling, Taylor once again proved to be a high-class offspinner bowling to left-handers. Though he only took 3 wickets at an average of 34.33, his 3.12 economy rate was far and away the best of any bowler on tour and renders any call for USA to include a specialist offspinner to be a pointless discussion. 
Taylor’s fielding was also to a high standard as his long strides cover more ground at a quicker rate than most, leading to many runs saved. He somehow managed to go through the entire tour without taking a catch, though he did effect USA’s only runout of the tour. 
If there’s one area where Taylor can improve, it is his fitness. He had to leave the field against PNG after bowling his first over of the tour when he began to vomit on field. Despite his solid performances, he could have scored even more runs were his fitness maintained to a much higher standard. It’s no coincidence that Monank Patel and Jaskaran Malhotra finished above him on the run charts, two players with superior fitness levels. If he can correct that, he will be a much more consistent all-round threat.
Sushant Modani: D
The debutant got a long leash at the top of the order, but never made a meaningful contribution. In five matches, he totaled 69 runs at an average of 13.80 with a best of 24 in the opener against Papua New Guinea. He suffered a pair of unfortunate dismissals, runout at the non-striker’s end in one match on a straight drive deflected by the bowler into the stumps, and then got a poor lbw decision against Sandeep Lamichhane. But players at times tend to make their own luck. He was dropped for the last match against Oman. Time will tell if he gets another chance to tour with USA again but he did not make a compelling case arguing in favor. 
Monank Patel: B+
USA’s highest graded player of the tour. Like Taylor, he rebounded sharply after getting an F for his woeful tour 18 months ago in Nepal. Nobody contributed as consistently as Monank with the bat in Oman. Returning to the place where he made his last century for USA against Uganda in November 2018, Monank produced a century against Nepal and then a half-century against Oman, both in losing causes. He also contributed an unbeaten 34 as well as a 38 not out in a pair of wins for USA. His innings were crisply batted as well, with the only obvious letoff coming on 79 in his century. On the whole, he scored 238 runs at an average of 59.50. 
In the field, Monank contributed nine catches while shifting duties between keeping wicket and being an outfielder, though the majority of those were taken behind the stumps. While he took one highlight reel leaping catch one-handed against PNG, he also spilled a number of chances, including a pair of poorly timed ones down the stretch in the first loss to Oman. He may be a serviceable temporary keeping option, but USA would be better served by finding a better permanent gloveman and allow him to play as a specialist bat. 
Nisarg Patel: C
Nisarg continues to make solid contributions without clearing the hurdle into match-winning ones. His 4 for 30 in the opening match against PNG paved the way for Taylor to blaze away unrestricted at a short target. He also bowled two quality spells in the first pair of tri-series ODIs, returning 2 for 33 in 10 overs against Nepal and 0 for 27 in 9.4 overs against Oman, figures which don’t really do justice to how well he kept USA in the match in a chase clinched in the final over. He ended the tour with 8 wickets at an average of 21.38 and an economy rate of 3.83 in 44.4 overs, bowling the third most on tour. 
With the bat, Nisarg has made a habit of getting starts without kicking on. He totaled 70 runs in four innings at an average of 17.50, with two of those innings coming at No. 4. His lowest score was 13, his highest 21. He averages 18.55 in 23 career one-day innings for USA and the bulk of those scores are over 10 but under 25. Quite simply, he wastes a lot of starts, a habit that he has not been able to shake. 
In the field, Nisarg is generally reliable and took two catches. However, he also had two costly drops, including one late in the chase against Oman in which Naseem Khushi was dropped on 1 at midwicket off the bowling of Saurabh Netravalkar and went on to finish 15 not out in the four-wicket win.
Nisarg’s biggest strength is his bowling. He is capable of being classed as a genuine allrounder, but needs to convert more of his batting starts or else selectors’ patience may soon wear thin. 
Jaskaran Malhotra: C+
Some people may raise an eyebrow at this grade, but as stated at the top of this piece, players are graded on a match-by-match basis. Taylor produced a pair of half-centuries that earned him Player of the Match honors including USA’s only win of the tri-series whereas the bulk of Malhotra’s runs on tour came in a single innings. Malhotra’s historic record-setting knock came against the weakest opponent of the three USA faced on tour, and was also made possible by four dropped chances, the first of which came on 3. Nobody profited off missed chances on the tour more than Malhotra, who scored 206 of his 261 runs after he’d been dropped. It was the biggest elephant in the room on tour. 
The second biggest elephant in the room on tour was Nosthush Kenjige being promoted to enter at No. 5 against Nepal in USA’s opening match of the tri-series ahead of Malhotra just a few days after his 173* including the six sixes in an over. There are a number of reasons this could have happened, but none of them are justifiable. If Malhotra wants to be considered an indispensable part of the USA lineup, let alone a top-class Associate player, then a tailender should never ever be coming in to bat ahead of him. 
Malhotra’s contributions during the tri-series were 11, 21, 36* (after being dropped on 0) and 17. The 11 and 17 were especially costly. The former came against Nepal when he drove loosely to long-off at a time when USA needed someone to stay in and kick on to get them to a bigger score. The latter came at a stage where USA’s required run rate against Oman was just above a run a ball but after failing on numerous slog sweeps, he persisted with the shot until he was bowled by Zeeshan Maqsood. Both situations highlighted poor tactical awareness and arguably cost USA a chance at victory. 
The best part of Malhotra’s game was his fitness. Though he may have been dropped four times against PNG in his 173*, it was incredible for him to not just hit six sixes in an over, but to do it in the final over of the innings having been at the crease for three hours in 90-95F degree heat. Some of the other players in the squad could learn something from Malhotra’s fitness approach to improve their own games. 
Sanjay Krishnamurthi: D
The third youngest debutant in USA’s 50-over cricket history at age 18, Krishnamurthi underwhelmed in a tour that showed the steep learning curve he now has to adjust to. He scored 13 runs in his debut innings, including a startling six over square leg off Sandeep Lamichhane. But he followed that up with a pair of ducks. He was at fault for the runout that cost him his wicket, freezing and/or ballwatching when Malhotra called him through for a clear run from the non-striker’s end against Oman. The second duck against Nepal exposed loose technique/nervy temperament driving at a ball well away from his body to edge to slip. He was ostensibly sent in at No. 5 ahead of Malhotra in that situation – 119 for 3 chasing a target of 175 – in an effort to get him a few runs to build his confidence in a low target chase but it backfired badly for Krishnamurthi on a personal level. He was dropped for the last match of the tri-series afterward. 
He went wicketless in seven overs with a 3.86 economy rate. His bowling wasn’t bad, but it lacked bite compared to the other left-arm spinners in USA’s arsenal. His fielding was generally of a very high standard, especially while patrolling the boundary as a sweeper where he showcased his top fitness, footspeed to the ball, and a bullet arm which is arguably USA’s strongest and most accurate outfield throwing arm. It’s what saved him from getting an even lower grade. 
Despite his poor statistical returns on his debut tour, Krishnamurthi remains one of USA’s most promising long-term prospects. Though he is unlikely to be in USA’s first XI the next time they take the field, it would not be surprising to see him maintain a squad spot as a reserve thanks to his fielding in particular as well as an eagerness to learn from his mistakes and a positive attitude in general. 
Karima Gore: C+
Gore’s raw statistical returns may seem light – 80 runs in five innings at an average of 16, three wickets at an average of 45.44 and a 4.86 economy rate in 28 overs – compared to many other players in the squad. But for his role in the team, he played a hugely significant part in the field in one USA victory against Nepal and very nearly rallied them to another with the bat against Oman. 
Gore’s best innings came in a 44 off 46 balls at No. 8 against Oman, combining with Elmore Hutchinson in a 66-run ninth wicket stand that not only spared USA a great humiliation, but nearly did enough to get them into position to claw back for what would have been an improbable win. One day later against Nepal, he took three momentum-shifting catches in the field – including two highlight-reel efforts at backward point – that went a long way towards setting up victory for USA, not to mention his spell of 8-2-29-1 in the same game. 
However, Gore was underused for large chunks of other matches and his role with both bat and ball is never clearly defined. He batted at four positions in five innings – No. 7, 9, 8, 3 and 7 – was used as a new ball bowler in one match, a role he has successfully done in the past, but most often was quickly yanked out of the attack after a poor over and rarely given a chance to make amends. For someone who was USA’s best bowler in 2019, the lack of faith in his bowling abilities from team leadership is at times puzzling and at other times justified, seemingly a chicken vs. egg conundrum. Is he not getting wickets because he’s not being given a chance to bowl a full 10-over spell? Or is he not bowling a full 10-over spell because he’s not taking wickets? 
Gore’s spot in the XI appears to be safe though because of the fact that he is the heartbeat in the field. Nobody does more to lift USA’s overall catching and ground fielding standards than Gore. He is lightning quick at cutting off singles, in part due to natural speed but also because he maintains some of the highest fitness standards in the team. His impact in that regard cannot be overstated. 
Elmore Hutchinson: C-
The longtime stalwart is still chugging away, though for how much longer remains to be seen. He scored 67 runs in three innings at an average of 33.50, including a best of 49 not out against Oman in a knock that was reminiscent of his 52 off 50 balls on the final day of 2017 WCL Division Three when he entered at 82 for 7 and top-scored in a total of 145 that spared USA from relegation in a 13-run win. His effort in Oman this month helped USA stretch the match until the final over but it was ultimately in vain. 
With the ball, he took three wickets at an average of 35.33 – well below his career average of 24 with the ball for USA – and an economy rate of 3.93 in 27 overs. He never bowled more than six overs in a match, and never took more than one wicket in any appearance. Quite simply he is not threatening at ODI level and at age 39, it’s hard to see him continuing to justify a place in the team in his primary role as a bowler ahead of younger, more promising talents who have yet to hit their ceiling. 
The fact that he remains in the squad says more about USA’s systemic failures to cultivate match-winning talent than it does about his own wily skills and longevity. He is USA’s third highest wicket-taker of all-time in 50-over cricket and deserves to be remembered for his valuable contributions over the years. He also deserves a dignified exit rather than being remembered as someone who hung around too long just because nobody else was putting serious pressure on him for a roster spot or because better options (Cameron Stevenson, Rusty Theron) were unavailable. 
Nosthush Kenjige: B-
Two years ago, his place in any touring squad – nevermind the starting XI – looked under threat because of the increased competition in his specific left-arm spin skillset after the arrival of Gore and the return of Nisarg. But Kenjige’s ability to adapt and improve, thanks to a relentless work ethic, has not only seen him keep his spot in USA’s touring squads but seen him reemerge as an automatic selection. 
Kenjige took 10 wickets on tour at an average of 17.90 and had a 3.95 economy rate in 45.2 overs, the second-most bowled on tour. He had a pair of three-wicket hauls – the opener against PNG and in the finale against Oman – but also bowled exceptionally in the middle two games of the tri-series – 7-0-25-1 against Oman, and arguably should have bowled out his 10 overs; and 8-0-20-1 against Nepal – that helped USA to one win and nearly a second. 
Though he has worked tirelessly on his batting to dig his way out of being a No. 11, Kenjige may have been more surprised than anyone to be asked to go in at No. 5 in the tri-series opener against Nepal. His score of 13 was in line with a career one-day average of 10.14 in 36 innings. It may be awhile, or never, before he bats that high again. 
Ever since his debut, fielding and fitness are two areas that Kenjige has always stood taller than most in the USA squad. He took six catches on tour, more than any other outfield player (not including Monank who split time keeping wicket and outfielding). The healthy competition between him and Gore to try to constantly one-up each other by denying singles in the ring is infectious to everyone else in the squad. 
Kenjige continues to move up USA’s career wicket-taking chart in one-day cricket, now sitting at fourth following the conclusion of this tour. He is quietly compiling a resume to mark himself out as one of USA’s best spinners in their limited overs history and before long may overtake Timil Patel to be the most prolific wicket-taking spinner in USA’s one-day history. 
Saurabh Netravalkar: B
The captain’s accuracy with the new and old ball has made him one of the most efficient and economical wicket-takers in USA’s one-day cricket history. He once again finished as USA’s leading wicket-taker on tour, claiming 12 at an average of 16.17 and had an economy of 3.87 in 50.1 overs on tour. He also played an unsung role for Malhotra in the 173* and six sixes in an over by holding up one end down the stretch after wickets had tumbled rapidly prior to his entry at No. 11. His resistance allowed Malhotra to be on strike for the history-making moment. His role in that moment is also recorded for being a part of USA’s highest 10th-wicket partnership in their one-day history, contributing a very significant 1 to a 55-run stand.
His new ball spell of 2 for 17 in five overs in the first match against Oman sparked a stern fightback, though he was ultimately culpable for his poor spell at the death in which he leaked a devastating 10 runs in the 47thover. He bounced back a day later with 4 for 29 against Nepal in a bowling performance that helped set up USA’s lone victory in the tri-series. He also took two wickets apiece in the pair of wins against PNG, though was hammered in the final match of the tour, returning 0 for 54 – most of that coming in another expensive death spell – in seven overs against Oman. 
Netravalkar’s figures may have been even better had a few chances not been put down off his bowling, including a very crucial one in the first match against Oman. However, he also may have cost himself wickets, and the team, with some conservative field settings (much of which has been covered in the Team Grades review). His fielding is weak in the context of the USA squad, but he is generally able to hide himself in low-traffic positions to avoid being a liability. 
Netravalkar is in line to overtake Timil Patel on USA’s next tour to become USA’s all-time leading wicket-taker in one-day cricket. Whether or not he achieves that milestone as USA captain remains to be seen. 
Dominique Rikhi: Incomplete
The 28-year-old made scores of 3 and 0 in his only two appearances. He did not look comfortable in either knock, the first entering in the middle-order and the latter after being asked to open in place of the dropped Modani. He was a standout fielder with high fitness levels though, taking a pair of excellent catches on the boundary, including one as a sub. It’s hard to judge a player on two innings, but he will need to prove he deserves to keep his spot with some big innings at the USA Cricket 50-over National Championship in November. 
Gajanand Singh: Incomplete
Made 9 runs in his first innings after being sent in at No. 4 on debut just a few weeks short of his 34th birthday against PNG. But it was a debut that was more memorable for his cramping up just six overs and less than 20 deliveries after arriving into the middle. That poor fitness ensured he was left out until the final match on tour when he made 48. Though the technical skills were there, he held back his partners with slow running between the wickets which again highlighted his lack of fitness. If he can get in shape, he may be worthwhile in the middle order. But it’s the type of ‘if’ that has derailed the careers of many USA players. 
Jessy Singh: Incomplete
Only bowled eight overs in two matches at an economy rate of 6.13 and took one wicket before going home injured. The subsequent emergence on ODI debut of the much younger and faster Kyle Phillip, and the impending return of Theron and Stevenson, means Singh will face long odds of returning to the USA squad even when 100% healthy. 
Aaron Jones: Incomplete
Scored 22 runs in his only innings on tour, but also dropped at least one and maybe two chances depending on your perspective. The inability to field cleanly was a factor necessitating the scan which revealed the severity of the hand injury that ruled him out of the rest of the tour. USA missed the vice-captain’s runs dearly and his stock went up by virtue of USA’s results in his absence. 
Abhishek Paradkar: Incomplete
The 20-year-old Leeds University student impressed on his ODI debut against PNG, bowling accurately to take 4 for 26. However, he struggled to make the step up in class a few days later against Nepal, getting hit hard in his three overs for 27 runs and was not given another chance on tour. He most likely will make way when other first-choice options become available again but remains an interesting long-term project. 
Kyle Phillip: Incomplete
His raw 140 kph pace shook up Nepal’s order on debut and resulted in 3 for 43 to help USA to their first win of the tri-series. He ended the tour with an underwhelming display against Oman though, taking 0 for 43 in six overs, though his figures were blighted slightly by a dropped chance off his bowling. He has struggled for consistency at times in his domestic and franchise appearances, but is worth persisting with in the long-term due to his match-winning physical attributes. Only Ali Khan is a bigger threat in terms of sheer pace in the wider USA setup. 
[Views expressed in this article are those of the author, who covered every match as they happened, and do not necessarily represent the views of DreamCricket management. If you have different views or opinions, we respect those views and urge you to provide your feedback, both positive and negative. Feel free to respond to the author via Twitter @PeterDellaPenna.]

ICYMI - Part 1: Team Grades