Ali Khan returns; USA Men head to Antigua qualifiers for first T20i action in two years

USA Cricket Men huddle after warming up in Oman

When USA Cricket named their squad for the Americas leg of the 2022 ICC T20 World Cup Qualification pathway earlier this month, shortly after the inaugural Minor League Cricket season wrapped up, fans were quick to note the presence of many familiar names in the team.  

Of the 14 players named, all but Trinson Carmichael, Ganjanand Singh, and Ian Holland have previously represented USA in T20 cricket. 

Singh, a veteran of 10 first-class matches representing Guyana and 9 Caribbean Premier League innings for the Amazon Warriors, debuted with the Men’s ODI team in Oman this September, where he scored 57 runs in two innings.

Trinson Carmichael, a 29 year old left arm orthodox bowler out of New York, finds himself in a USA Cricket roster for the first time in his career, after a very successful Minor League Cricket season. Carmichael finished 2nd amongst domestic players (5th overall) in “Total Impact” and 3rd amongst domestic players (4th overall) in “Impact Per Over” while helping his Empire State Titans to the Atlantic Conference Finals.

Carmichael has made the national team his target since first playing cricket in the USA when he moved here as a teenager, 13 years ago. “The feeling is neutral,” the left arm orthodox spinner told Emerging Cricket. “The excitement isn’t really there knowing what’s expected from me. So I’m just on the relaxed side trying to focus on doing well more than celebrating.” 

Coach J Arun Kumar will carry an otherwise veteran squad to Antigua for his first ICC Men’s T20 World Cup Qualifiers at the helm of Team USA. 

The last time USA Cricket’s men’s senior team played a T20 Qualifier event, they did so without the help of yorker specialist Ali Khan, a powerplay and death bowling specialist who has won two championships as a leading bowler with the Trinbago Knight Riders of the Caribbean Premier League. Ali went down with an injury prior to the qualifier and has focused on professional opportunities in franchise cricket since. A key member of the historic USA Cricket team that clinched ODI status in May of 2019, Ali’s return is a big boost for USA’s bowling, and huge news for USA Cricket fans.

“It feels really good to be back after a long gap, but I’m very excited about this new chapter heading into qualifiers and ultimately qualifying for the 2022 T20 World Cup,” Ali Khan told Emerging Cricket. “It’s exciting times for cricket in the USA and a lot of talent has come up through Minor League Cricket recently, which will eventually help grow cricket in the USA in the coming years, and it’s a great time to be a part of USA Cricket.”

Also returning to a USA lineup is Ian Holland, who was not in the team during the recent ODI tour of Oman. A veteran of eight One Day Internationals for USA, Holland looks to make his T20i debut at the qualifiers. “Today was good to play against some good opposition, and I feel ready,” Holland remarked after two warm-up games at Church Street Park on Wednesday. “I played a lot of cricket back in the UK, it’s been good to sort of have a bit of time to freshen up, and now a good couple weeks of preparation leading to Antigua, so the boys are excited and ready to go.” 

Captaincy change

“Honestly, I’m nervous and excited. I feel proud of myself, and it’s a responsibility for me to lead as a captain of the United States national team, and I’m pretty excited for the role,” new captain Monank Patel told Emerging Cricket about his recent promotion. “We have a pretty good team, a strong team, we have a high chance to end up being the top of the table.” 

USA has divided the duties of captaincy between formats, with Monank named as the captain of the T20i team, ending Surabh Netravalkar’s run as T20 skipper. Netravalkar will retain his captaincy on USA’s ODI rendition, but the leadership team of Monank and Aaron Jones (vice captain of both ODI and T20i) will move forward for T20. 

“The appointment of Monank Patel as USA’s new T20I Captain comes after 50-over captain, Saurabh Netravalkar, requested the opportunity to focus fully on his bowling in the shortest format of the game,  He had done that with great success during the recent Minor League Cricket competition, and the Selection Panel were fully supportive of his decision,” USA Men’s National Selection Panel Chairman Michael Voss said in the announcement. “Aside from recent performances with the national team on its ODI tour of Oman, there have been some fantastic performances across the summer in the inaugural season of Minor League Cricket and which the Selection Panel took into account as part of its selection process.”

“We were especially pleased that the overall competition for places in the Men’s T20 national team is stronger than ever before, and there are no doubt a number of players who will considering themselves very unlucky to miss out, but they will continue to be monitored and will remain very firmly in the minds of the Selection Panel moving forward.”

Omissions and Minor League performers

Any healthy cricketing nation will have their share of selection controversies. It’s a sign that fans care. And there will always be players who feel that they’ve missed out. This time around, those players have recently wrapped up the first governing body-supported coast-to-coast domestic T20 semi-professional league in the history of the nation, as Minor League Cricket wrapped up the inaugural 10 week season on the first weekend of October. 

After 15-16 regular season games from each team (depending on the division), 27 teams in all, and three rounds of playoffs, ample data on player performance is readily available to help selectors. With all of that data, it naturally should raise questions when stellar performers are passed up.

As mentioned, Trinson Carmichael was a stand out performer in Minor League Cricket. Since he’s just made the national team for the first time, we can assume MiLC was a factor in his selection.

Few (if any) bowlers in Minor League Cricket stood out more than 19 year old Vatsal Vaghela. Finishing as the top rated bowler in all of MiLC, and as the only player in the league to be selected to all three “tournament teams” (team of the tournament, domestic team, and U21 team), it somehow wasn’t enough for the selectors. Vatsal’s 29 wickets in 17 games at a 5.49 economy helped his Golden State Grizzlies to a first place finish in the air-tight Western Division. 

While USA’s Jaskaran Malhotra, Xavier Marshall and Rusty Theron stood out throughout the MiLC inaugural season, several domestic stars look to challenge for spots in the team.

Ryan Scott of the Michigan Cricket Stars narrowly missed an appearance in the MiLC playoffs, but finished the season as the top-rated domestic batter in “Total Impact,” and the 3rd rated in that category overall. Scott, 25 years old, scored 446 runs in 14 innings at 181.3 strike rate, and was the only player in the league to score two centuries during the season. 

When USA picked their ODI squad for Oman, Xavier Marshall found himself on the outside looking in. The 35 year old former Windies test batsman answered with an MiLC season that ranked 3rd amongst domestic batters and 7th overall. His performance may have helped his case in returning to the team for Antigua. “Minor League is a big boost for me, especially when it comes to batting and batting (for a) long period,” Xavier told Emerging Cricket. “In T20 cricket, some people might think it’s only 20 overs, but that’s a lot of balls, understand? So I think Minor League helped me a lot, to where I am now.”

Perhaps most curiously, USA will be heading to Antigua with Vice Captain Aaron Jones as their only leg spin option. Jones, known more for his bat, has bowled in only three innings for USA, but has performed well when called upon, taking two wickets at an economy of only 4.00 in 42 balls. Jones was used even less frequently by Atlanta Fire, bowling only seven overs throughout the MiLC season.

The selectors did have some domestic leg spin options available to them in Damion Jacobs, the tournament’s leading wicket taker, and U21 standout all-rounder of the runner-up New Jersey Stallions, Ray Ramrattan, who always seemed to be in the right place, leading the tournament in catches and showing up at times in all three facets of the game. 

Warm-up games against MLC

USA Cricket prepared for their trip by playing three games at Church Street Park against a team composed of Major League Cricket contracted players, local USA U19 members, and whomever wasn’t selected for each game from USA’s own 14 man roster. 

In the United States, having talented and experienced cricketers spread throughout the country who don’t qualify for selection is nothing new. But with MLC contracted players, USA gets the benefit of easily organizing such high quality opposition to prepare for international events, a clear advantage over other nations in the region, and over Associate Members in general.

“Oh, it’s absolute quality players. If we keep playing against these kinds of players, our standards will rise,” Ali Khan said about the MLC team. “The likes they have, like Obus and Andries Gous, you know, bowling against these guys is really tough, because they’re really top notch players, but again, you have to back yourself and train hard, so yeah…this should help everyone going into Antigua.” 

The competition didn’t exclusively benefit USA players. The MLC group saw it as an opportunity to play good cricket at a good venue. Shadley Van Schalkwyk, an MiLC Team of the Tournament selectee from the Seattle Thunderbolts, took advantage of the opportunity to test himself against the national team and improve his own game. “You take for granted when you don’t play on turf, but when you come to facilities like this, you really appreciate it,” Shadley told Emerging Cricket following the second warm-up game in North Carolina. “I think some good quality cricket on turf wickets is always underrated. I think we’re trying to play our best cricket also. It’s coming into winter, but playing is always fun, it’s always good competing against the best cricketers within the USA playing for the national side to see where your skills are, and I think we’ve thoroughly enjoyed it.”  

The 2022 ICC Men’s T20 World Cup Americas Qualifiers begin in Antigua on November 7 and run through November 14.

Team USA Squad

Monank Patel (Captain)

Aaron Jones (Vice Captain)

Ali Khan

Elmore Hutchinson

Gajanand Singh

Ian Holland

Jaskaran Malhotra

Karima Gore

Nisarg Patel

Rusty Theron

Saurabh Netravalkar

Steven Taylor

Trinson Carmichael

Xavier Marshall


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