Former Hyderabad wicketkeeper Ibrahim Khaleel is one of three former first-class players to be invited to a USA selection camp from March 16 to 19 in Houston, Texas. The purpose of the camp is to pick a 14-man squad to tour Uganda in May for WCL Division Three matches.
Khaleel, 34, last represented Hyderabad in January 2015, having played 57 first-class matches in the Ranji Trophy since his debut in 2002. He has been playing league cricket in Chicago for the past several summers and was identified by selectors at an ICC Regional Combine held in Chicago last May.
It was understood that Khaleel has not yet met the eligibility threshold – a non-citizen can represent his resident country provided he has spent a minimum of 183 days per year over four consecutive years prior to a tournament – but would be immediately eligible if he were to secure a US passport. According to a source, Khaleel currently has US permanent residency status and was in the latter stages of obtaining US citizenship.
Roy Silva, the Sri Lankan batsman who played 87 first-class matches, and Camilus Alexander, the former Windward Islands legspinner, were also called up to the selection camp.
Silva, 36, played his last first-class match for Colombo CC in March 2013 and has been a heavy scorer in the Georgia and Florida leagues since moving to the USA. Alexander, 35, was the leading wicket-taker at the USACA T20 National Championship in 2014 while playing for the South East Region. Both would be eligible to play for USA under the ICC’s four-year deemed national rule.
The 19 players from the camp are expected to link up with a training squad of 31, which had been assembled prior to USA’s title-winning run at WCL Division Four.
The other talking point was the potential returns of offspinner Abhimanyu Rajp, batsman Charan Singh and left-arm spinning allrounder Mrunal Patel. Rajp and Charan last played for USA during the Auty Cup tours to Canada in 2013 and 2011 respectively while Mrunal had been part of the team that went to Ireland in 2015 for the World T20 qualifier.
Four recent USA Under-19 representatives will be part of the camp as well. New York batsman Randall Wilson is a strong contender for a batting spot after solid performances at the ICC’s Regional Combine in New York last June and a half-century against a touring MCC side in September. Batsmen Gauranshu Sharma, Sagar Patel and Tohidul Islam were the other former U-19 players up for selection.
“When considering players to add to the trial, the [selection] panel wanted to predominantly focus on youth players, young guys who stood out at Combines last year or in previous USA U-19 teams,” selection chairman Ricardo Powell said in a press release. “It will be good to give them some additional exposure in this environment. Those young players are accompanied by a couple more experienced players who have been consistent performers in the US and abroad.”
The large number of invitees was partly because seven of the most recent USA squad members were unavailable, including four who were a part of either the Division Four squad or the one for their previous assignment, the Auty Cup. Fast bowlers Hammad Shahid and David Pieters, and allrounder Srini Santhanam have been ruled out due to injury while seamer Aman Lobana and left-arm spinner Danial Ahmed were unavailable.
Shahid’s absence was the biggest blow. He had taken three wickets in two matches, with an exemplary economy rate of 3.55 in the Auty Cup last October. He had a strong chance of being among the final 14 to play in Uganda but sustained a torn posterior cruciate knee ligament (PCL) during a recent training session and was expected to be out for up to three months.
Santhanam had surgery on his right shoulder in December and cannot play cricket at least until the second half of 2017. Pieters, who has yet to debut for USA, tore a meniscus at a trial match in Florida last August ahead of Division Four. Subsequent tests revealed cartilage damage in his right knee. After going under the knife for a second time last week, he has been ruled out of action indefinitely.
There were doubts over batsman Alex Amsterdam and allrounder Timroy Allen attending the camp as well. Both spent a month in Barbados with the ICC Americas squad at the WICB Regional Super50 in January and February, making it difficult for them to take more time off work again, especially considering the team would be away from home for up to three weeks for the Division Three tour. Allen, one of USA’s most valuable assets, was recently retained by Jamaica Tallawahs in the CPL draft.
A six-day pre-tour to South Africa has been organised for USA before they land in Uganda for the start of the matches on May 23. In addition to the hosts, USA will be competing against Canada, Malaysia, Oman and Singapore in the next phase of the qualification process for the 2019 World Cup. The top two finishers at Division Three advance to Division Two, expected to be held in late 2017 or early 2018. It is the last step prior to the 2018 World Cup Qualifier, currently slated for Bangladesh in April 2018. (ESPNCricinfo)
Peter Della Penna is ESPNcricinfo’s USA correspondent. @PeterDellaPenna