Peter della Penna
This article first appeared on DreamCricket (www.dreamcricket.com) and is reproduced with the kind permission of the author.
ICC's announcement on Wednesday that the number of teams in the 2015 World Cup has been trimmed from 14 to 10 was a severe blow to Associate Member cricket. However, USA's players are trying to stay upbeat and maintain hope that an opportunity to qualify for the event hasn't been eliminated.
“This doesn't dampen my dream of playing in a World Cup,” said USA captain Steve Massiah. “It makes it more difficult to get there, but it would give you more motivation that you really have to work harder to qualify. With maybe two teams qualifying instead of four, the players should relish the challenge and want to work harder to get to the highest stage.”
“It will take a very special effort, but we have the natural talent to be very very competitive,” said Massiah. “I think we can go one or two again to come out of Division 3 and go on to Division 2 and with the players we have, we can be a force to be reckoned with. We haven't lost to Bermuda in a long time and we beat the UAE in a warm-up game before the Twenty20 Qualifiers in February.”
USA vice-captain Sushil Nadkarni echoed Massiah's sentiments, saying that the team is still focused on moving up through the World Cricket League.
“I think right now, USA probably has that 2015 World Cup at the back of its mind,” said Nadkarni. “But our focus is still Division 3 because even in the real world, you can't get there unless you go division by division. It's all about how we do in Hong Kong and then if we do well, then think about Division 2, but the World Cup is probably a distant dream right now.”
Nadkarni also said that the recent success of the team in 50 over cricket in the World Cricket League has provided optimism for younger players wanting to play.
“One thing I know that what this victory in Italy has done, and I've seen it around the US right now, it's kind of given a sense of hope for US cricket,” said Nadkarni. “A lot of players are now looking forward to the future and I can see between the talks, the body language and the energy, a lot of youngsters are also looking forward to USA advancing to Division 3, Division 2 and then getting a chance in the future to represent USA and play good cricket.”
While the number of teams in the World Cup was reduced, the ICC elected to increase the number of teams from 12 to 16 at the next World Twenty20. Yet, Massiah doesn't believe that Twenty20 should be forced upon young cricketers trying to develop their skills. He doesn't want it to be the only format offered to them in the future.
“I personally don't endorse Twenty20, but it is the game a lot of people feel is best to market to the American public,” said Massiah. “Twenty20 is just a slugout. It's 50 over and four-day and Test cricket that really show the true caliber of a player, that tests the mental strength and abilities of a player. Twenty20 doesn't show the true caliber of a player because often times opportunities are limited.”
Nadkarni also was not sold on Twenty20 being the path of future development.
“In the US, Twenty20 hasn't caught on as big yet. It is catching up. It's coming into the leagues slowly, but I don't see kids really just wanting to play Twenty20 and not 50 over,” said Nadkarni. “If it's Twenty20 that takes over in the next two years, then obviously they'll be forced to play more Twenty20 cricket. But I don't see that happening really. The 50 over game, the Test cricket, it still has its charm. It's different from Twenty20 cricket that's very fast and people just go crazy playing shots. There is still some skill involved in the 50 over game. I think the kids will want to play the 50 over game because that's where they can show their skills.”
Nadkarni's biggest worry is whether or not funding will be cut from Associate level teams, including the USA. Up in the air is whether or not the ICC's High Performance Program, of which grooming players for a higher standard of 50 over and four-day cricket is a major component, will still be in existence if USA makes it to Division 1 in 2013.
“I think that's the carrot that is driving our momentum right now, is to get to Division 2 or Division 1 and get into ICC's High Performance Program,” said Nadkarni. “I don't know if it will spell the end of the High Performance Program, but if US got into Division 2 or Division 1 and we don't get the High Performance Program benefits, then that will kind of impact our overall development of cricket in the US, because we will continue to go up against top teams and not have that funding or the High Performance Program facilities that other teams have gotten so far, if that's the case. But I don't know if that's going to be the case.”