Massiah Predicts USA's Second Coming
USA captain Steve Massiah is confident his side can get back to the top of the Associate cricket world after spending most of the past three years in the wilderness. And that road to redemption begins with the ICC World Cricket League Division 5 (WCL Div. 5), which takes place in Jersey from 23 to 31 May.
Massiah (28) says the US will be taking it one stage at a time in its bid to qualify for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011, starting with trying to emerge top of Group A in Jersey, where it will face the challenge of Germany, Mozambique, Nepal, Norway and Vanuatu.
Group B, the other half of the tournament, features teams representing Afghanistan, Bahamas, Botswana, Japan, Jersey and Singapore.
“I believe we have a very, very good chance of going all the way and getting back to the top,” said the top-order batsman and occasional off-break bowler.
“But we are not taking any of the other teams lightly. We’re going to go there and take it very seriously, play positive cricket and hopefully get through to the next level,” he told the ICC.
“At the time we were excluded from international cricket (in 2005 and again in 2007) we were playing with the top Associates and now we are down near the bottom. But as I told the guys, I think it could be a blessing in disguise as it gives us a chance to generate a bit of team spirit and will hopefully allow us to assess the players and figure out what our best combinations are.”
In April, the United States of America Cricket Association (USACA) was re-recognised as an Associate Member of the ICC. USACA had been suspended for a second time by the ICC Executive Board in March 2007 after failing to meet conditions imposed.
Those conditions, imposed after a previous suspension that ran from June 2005 to March 2006, included a new constitution, the holding of elections for a Board of Directors under that constitution and the appointment of all USACA executive positions.
All of the above has now happened following a process overseen by the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) and, following a report presented to the ICC Board, the suspension was lifted. Now it faces its first major test and Massiah is chomping at the bit to get back into it.
“I am happy with the preparations so far. It has been easier for the guys in the warmer parts of the country,” said the New Yorker, who has just emerged into springtime after the harsh east coast winter.
“We had a really productive training camp down in Florida and I think we have put together a well-balanced side with some experienced players and some exciting young talent.
“I really don’t know anything about the other teams in the tournament but I am looking forward to getting over there and back into international cricket. It has been a long wait and everybody is really excited waiting for the first game.”
Of course cricket is not a new phenomenon in the United States. In 1844, the USA and Canada played out what is generally accepted to be the first game of international cricket in history.
This tournament will match some far more unlikely pairings, however, with Massiah’s men set to face teams from as diverse places as the heartland of central Europe to the foothills of the Himalayas and the remote Pacific islands.
Coached by Keith Thompson, this is Germany’s first opportunity to pit its skills against opposition from outside Europe since the ICC Trophy 2001. The team secured its spot after being ranked third in the European Championships Division 2 event last year.
Mozambique qualified for this event at the ICC World Cricket League Africa Region Division 2 tournament and will be captained by middle-order batsman Muhammed Shoaib Younus. Other key players include vice-captain Chandra Puspussen, Zainul Patel and Mohammad Sidat.
Nepal is an up-and-coming side in world cricket and, having done well in the past two ICC U/19 Cricket World Cup tournaments in Sri Lanka (2006) and Malaysia (2008), the future looks bright. Of the side that got to the Plate Championship final in Kuala Lumpur earlier this year, Paras Khadka, Gyanendra Malla, Mahesh Chhetri and Amrit Bhattarai have all graduated to the senior squad for the WCL Div. 5.
Norway only became an Affiliate Member of the ICC in June 2000 and since then it has played 47 international matches, losing just four of them. Players to watch include skipper Shahid Ahmad, Zaheer Ashiq and Waseem Gill.
The sixth side that makes up Group A is Vanuatu, which qualified for this event after finishing second in the round-robin section of the East Asia-Pacific Trophy in Auckland in December 2007.
The Vanuatu junior development programme is very highly regarded having won several regional awards and one of the strengths of this squad is that every player was born and bred in the country.
The 12-team event will be staged across six venues and will take the format of two groups of six with the top two from each section progressing to the knock-out stage.
The finalists from this tournament will be promoted to the ICC World Cricket League Division 4 thus joining Hong Kong, Fiji, Tanzania and Italy in a six-team event that will take place in the Tanzanian capital Dar Es Salaam from 4 to 11 October.
In turn, the top two teams from that tournament will progress to WCL Div. 3 in Argentina next January and then the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier 2009 in the UAE, which incorporates Divisions 1 and 2.
At the end of that tournament, the top four Associate or Affiliate teams in the world will be booking their places at the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 to be staged in Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Those four will join the 10 Full Members to decide the top one-day side in the world.