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By Peter Della Penna
USACA’s newly appointed Cricket Committee, chaired by Central West
regional representative Ahmed Jeddy, has received positive reviews from
players after this past weekend’s men’s selection camp in Fort
Lauderdale. The 28-player camp, which was led by Jeddy, was used to
select a preliminary 18-man squad for the 2012 ICC World Twenty20
Qualifier in the UAE from March 13-24.
According to multiple sources at the camp who requested to remain
anonymous, players were extremely satisfied with the way the weekend was
organized. For each day of the three-day camp, players were brought
from their hotel to the Central Broward Regional Park for an 8 a.m.
start inside the cricket stadium at the Lauderhill complex.
On the first day, players went through a fitness test which focused
on speed, agility and endurance and lasted approximately four hours.
After a break for lunch, four of the national selectors – chairman
Selwyn Caesar, Kuldeep Patel, Dawood Ahmed and Barney Jones – separated
the players into two sides for a 20-over trial match. Day two included
two more trial matches inside the stadium followed by a final trial
match on artificial turf outside the stadium on the last day.
According to one player, it was the best run camp since December 2009
when coaches Hamish Barton and Dipak Patel arrived from New Zealand for
a weekend of training ahead of the 2010 ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier
and 2010 ICC U-19 World Cup.
“Well, first of all as a board member of USACA, I’ve never attended
the previous camps, but all we used to hear through the media was that
this went wrong and that went wrong,” said Jeddy. “This time around we
wanted to make sure everyone was in sync. We had a program that every
player received about 10 days before the camp. Every day we had a bus at
the hotel. The players were taken to the ground at 8 a.m. sharp. We
made sure lunch was served on time. We made sure we had ample fluids for
Speaking after the camp, many players felt that this was the first
camp in which an overall fitness examination was taken seriously as a
tool for selection purposes. At the camp in December 2009, Akeem Dodson
and Ryan Corns were the only two players who passed a mile and a half
run within the allotted time required to pass the test. Neither player
was selected to go on tour with the senior team the following February.
This time around, players had to complete five laps around the
stadium within a specified time in the initial phase of the test.
Sources indicated that Naseer Jamali turned in the fastest time of
anyone at the camp. Jamali was included in the preliminary 18-man squad
for the tour to the UAE. Jeddy says that things like this are a sign
that the new Cricket Committee is determined to employ a new philosophy
when it comes to team selection. Everyone must earn their way into the
squad and will not be handed a spot on reputation alone.
“Experience doesn’t really matter if you do not have the body and
legs to support it,” said Jeddy. “When you add enthusiasm, energy,
passion that this team has, we might not have experience but we are not
going to be outrun by every Tom, *** and Harry. In essence I think this
team has a lot. Yes, this team is short on experience, but we have
players with experience to make up for some of the nervousness or
inexperience that might be there with some of the younger players.”
In the past, USA’s teams at many tournaments have struggled badly
with their fitness, particularly when playing a second match on back to
back days, which is how most ICC tournaments for Associate level teams
are scheduled. Several players at the camp believe that with a younger,
fitter and hungrier squad, there will be much less of a chance of that
happening and are genuinely excited about the talent that has been
assembled by the selectors. Jeddy hopes that the way this team was
organized will be the way forward for USA’s squads at all levels.
“Our biggest problem has been our fitness and that goes to the fact
that we as USACA did not do what it should have done. We wanted to make
that correction,” said Jeddy. “The previous teams did not do that. There
was a lack of fitness, lack of commitment. The management was not as
committed as probably this one. Those guys brought a lot of good results
for us. Those guys also brought a lot of bad results for us.”
“Unfortunately lack of planning, lack of management skills has
probably cost us a lot. We have started now on a positive note. We
expect a good result.” When asked how he would define a good result for
the USA squad at the qualifier, Jeddy responded, “Winning it and
qualifying for the World Cup is a good result for us.” Players received
instruction at the camp from head coach Mark Johnson, assistant coach
Asif Mujtaba and Nasir “Charlie” Javed, who reportedly served as a
bowling coach at the camp.
“I would personally like to thank every player who gave their weekend
to be a part of this camp, all the selectors and coaches, [General
Manager] Manaf [Mohamed], the Broward County Stadium and officials,”
said Jeddy. “I want to thank all of these people and appreciate what
While Sushil Nadkarni was named captain at the conclusion of the
camp, several players were given opportunities throughout the trial
matches to serve as a captain or vice-captain for the split-squad games.
According to sources, those players included Usman Shuja, Orlando
Baker, Aditya Mishra, Gowkaran Roopnarine and Corns. The fact that Corns
was given a chance to be in a leadership position is a sign of how
serious the new selectors are in providing younger players a chance to
be major contributors.
terms of the 18 that have been selected into the preliminary squad,
there are many young faces like Jamali who made an impact on their
fellow players and selectors over the course of the weekend. Sources at
the camp were unanimous in their praise of Andy Mohammed and Elmore
Hutchinson. The 21-year-old Mohammed consistently produced impressive
batting displays during the trial matches to earn a spot in the 18 and
in all likelihood will make the cut for the final 14 as well.
Image (right) - Andy Mohammed at the 2010 ICC U-19 World Cup [Courtesy: Daniela Zaharia/USACA]
Hutchinson also seems a shoe-in for the final 14. The tall left-arm
seamer, who plays his cricket at Woodley Park and around the Los Angeles
area in the SCCA, was equally impressive. According to one source,
Hutchinson and Shuja were in a class by themselves in the fast bowling
department at the camp.
As for the spinners, Asif Khan received excellent reviews for his
efforts on the weekend. The 32-year-old left-arm spinner won plaudits
not just for his bowling, but also for his batting and fielding.
Off-spinners Muhammad Ghous and Abhimanyu Rajp could present an
interesting decision for the selectors. Ghous solidified his reputation
as an economical off-spinner. Rajp is more expensive but also a bigger
One player whose stock appeared to rise significantly during the
weekend was Adil Bhatti. While he doesn’t possess intimidating pace with
the ball, Bhatti is clever in the way he mixes deliveries to keep
batsmen off balance. In last year’s USACA Twenty20 Nationals, Bhatti had
several solid performances with the bat coming in at number three
behind Mishra and Roopnarine for the champion Atlantic Region team. The
27-year-old is considered an all-round option by the selectors and
appears to be battling with Japen Patel for a place in the final 14.
However, several sources said that the two players impressed everyone so
much with their batting, bowling, fielding and fitness on the weekend
that there is a chance both may squeeze into the squad.
Sources at the camp were also very impressed with Timothy Surujbally.
The 27-year-old has been a part of the South East Region squad on
multiple occasions but has struggled to turn in big scores at national
tournaments. However, many observers came away with a strong opinion of
Surujbally after last weekend and feel he can contribute with the bat if
given the opportunity.
Corns and Steven Taylor are another pair of youngsters who showed
encouraging signs over the three days. As usual, Taylor caught
everyone’s attention for his powerful striking ability. While Corns has
always been rated very highly for his batting, his mental strength was a
highlight of the camp. Sources indicated that Corns endured a rough
outing in the first trial match on the Friday, but came back to light up
the scoreboard during the pair of trial games on the Saturday.
The final 14-man roster must be submitted to the ICC by the second
weekend in February and Jeddy hopes that USACA will be able to organize
one more camp for the players before decisions have to be made. The
squad is tentatively scheduled to depart for Dubai on March 6 and will
have a week to acclimatize to conditions.