Sunday, November 1, 2009

US cricketers prepare for Asian road trip

The USACA National Championship, scheduled to take place from November 13 to 15, will be contested at both Brian Piccolo Park and Central Broward Regional Park in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. According to USACA Vice President of Operations Manaf Mohamed, natural turf wickets at each facility will be utilized to stage the event, with matches taking place simultaneously at the venues on the 13th and 14th. This is encouraging news for the teams participating in the event.

"One of the good things about the tournament really is that of the four teams that are participating, the regional teams, there are I think ten or eleven of the current national players on those teams," said Mohamed. "Also, there are about four or five of the Under-19 players on those teams also. So they'll get some good practice, actually some good game practice and good match practice, while the other guys will be doing some camps and training and stuff like that."

A total of 40 players are on the initial list of probables for selection in the men's team, with 17 of them coming to Florida not belonging to regional teams playing in the event. In addition to the camps mentioned, Mohamed said that USACA is planning to have four intra-squad Twenty20 games played on the 15th, with the intention to hold all of these games at the Broward facility. This will at least give an opportunity to those 17 to play in matches which they can be evaluated on.

While it was initially unclear whether or not the Under-19 team would get a chance to have a traning camp alongside the senior players before leaving for the U-19 World Cup in New Zealand, Mohamed said that 17 players, including those playing in the national championship, will be coming to Florida to participate in camps.

It's a sign that selectors are keeping faith in the 14-man group that finished a respectable fifth in the U-19 World Cup Qualifier last month in Canada. The tournament champions, Ireland, suffered their only defeat at the hands of the US team, led by captain Shiva Vashishat and ICC Player of the Tournament Ryan Corns. However, there will be at least one change in the squad as a final group of 15 will be sent to New Zealand.

"The intent is that by the end of that tournament, we would at least have gotten done the U-19 [selection] which should be a no-brainer. We should pretty much have that under control," said Mohamed. "Then we probably will also have short listed down to 18 or 20 for the seniors. The trick now is going to be able to get the seniors some matches, actual matches to play."

Mohamed added USACA is hopeful it will be able to arrange some matches for them in January before the team leave at the start of February for Dubai to play in the World Twenty20 Qualifier which starts on February 9.

USA will have group games against Ireland, Scotland and Afghanistan. They will then continue on from Dubai to Nepal for the ICC World Cricket League Division Five taking place from February 20 to 27. In addition to the host team, USA will be there with Fiji, Jersey, Singapore and Bahrain.

Several sources affiliated with the U-19 team said that they are scheduled to play warm-up games against India and Papua New Guinea in Christchurch prior to the start of the Under-19 World Cup. A report that appeared three weeks ago on the Hong Kong Cricket Association web site, but has since been removed, stated that USA's group matches will be played in Queenstown against Australia, South Africa and Ireland. However, no official announcement has been made yet by the ICC.

Mohamed said that USACA is hoping to fly the team to New Zealand on January 1 so they can get acclimatised to conditions, in addition to giving the team one more chance to train together before the event starts on the 16th.

"So the U-19s will be away for pretty much the entire January and the senior team will be away for the entire February and if a couple of the U-19s make the senior team, then they'll be away for two months, which is gonna be real tough because as you know, the U-19 kids, a lot of them are going to college," said Mohamed. "It's gonna be a tough decision for them to make, some of them to make for two months."


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