Offspinner Muhammad Ghous, who was dropped last year after captaining USA at the 2015 World T20 Qualifier in Ireland, has been recalled in a 14-man squad picked for USA’s T20 matches against St. Kitts & Nevis Patriots and Jamaica Tallawahs in Lauderhill, Florida on August 2 and 3.
The games are being used as preparation for both CPL teams ahead of their season-opening slate in Florida beginning on August 5 while also providing USA’s players with a chance to impress against higher-profile opponents. These matches will be USA’s first games since they failed to gain promotion from WCL Division Three in Uganda this past May.
“These matches are a great opportunity for USA to compete against some of the best in the world,” USA selection chairman Ricardo Powell said. “Initiatives such as these are of critical importance for the development of our playing group and we are grateful to the CPL, St. Kitts [& Nevis] Patriots and Jamaica Tallawahs for arranging these practice matches in the lead up to the USA-leg of the tournament.”
The door for Ghous’ return was opened by five of USA’s first-choice players being unavailable due to their involvement with CPL franchises. They include captain Steven Taylor (Guyana Amazon Warriors), allrounder Timroy Allen (Tallawahs), wicketkeeper Akeem Dodson (Barbados Tridents), fast bowler Ali Khan (Warriors) and legspinner Timil Patel (St Lucia Stars).
Along with Taylor, the rest of USA’s batting top-four from Division Three – Sagar Patel, Ibrahim Khaleel and Alex Amsterdam – were all omitted due to unavailability on short notice. Sagar and Khaleel are both currently in Europe on previously arranged time away while New York-based Amsterdam was unable to get leave from work, according to sources. Batsman Nicholas Standford, who was part of the squad in Uganda, is also believed to have been unavailable due to work commitments.
That presents opportunities to impress for a host of uncapped players including 37-year-old former Sri Lankan first-class batsman Roy Silva, Davion Davidson and Jaskaran Malhotra. Silva and Davidson were both part of USA training squads at trials held in Texas earlier this year but did not make the final cut for the 14-man squad taken to Uganda for Division Three.
Malhotra, 28, has been on the selection radar due to his high scores in private T20 tournaments held around the country but, like Silva, had not completed the ICC’s four-year residency requirement until recently. The maximum of two four-year resident non-citizen players in a playing XI for ICC tournaments has been relaxed for these games against the CPL teams, which has opened the door for not just Silva, Davidson and Malhotra but also Nisarg Patel and Camilus Alexander to all appear in the same squad.
Former USA Under-19 allrounder Nisarg is yet to make his USA senior debut but played for USA against a CPL Invitational XI last year in Lauderhill. The same goes for offspinner Usman Rafiq, also included in this squad.
Of the team that went to Uganda, only six players were retained for the two CPL games. Along with Alexander, the others kept in are opener Fahad Babar, who sat on the bench all tournament with a hand injury, allrounder Mrunal Patel and bowlers Elmore Hutchinson, Jessy Singh and Nosthush Kenjige.
Apart from Ghous, the two other players who have been recalled are hard-hitting batsman Abdullah Syed and allrounder Japen Patel. Syed was dropped after a run of low scores during USA’s Division Four winning run last year in Los Angeles while Japen has not played for USA since the 2015 World T20 Qualifier.
The two games for USA are part of a series of development initiatives organised by the CPL in Florida ahead of twin double-headers on August 5 and 6. The CPL is also working with the ICC Americas staff to run training seminars for USA-based coaches and umpires during the week.
“The Hero CPL is firmly committed to spreading the game of cricket in the USA and these matches are just another example of this,” Damien O’Donohoe, CPL chief executive, said. “We see so much potential for growth of cricket in the USA and we want to make sure we are doing all we can to help that cause.”
Peter Della Penna is ESPNcricinfo’s USA correspondent. @PeterDellaPenna
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