USACA’s Commitment to Selecting the USA’s Best
By Anurag Sharma
There has been vigorous debate about the selection process, and more particularly about the selection, or I should say, the non-selection of certain players in the U.S. National team for the ICC World Cricket League Tournament in Bermuda later this month.
To sift through the chatter, I decided to go directly to the newly appointed CEO of USACA, Darren Beazley, and get his take on the situation. Darren has been on the job for less than three months. I asked him about the controversy surrounding the selection, and his response was simple;
“I bring no biases or preconceived notions to American Cricket. The selection process for all US cricket teams under my administration will be thorough and professional. I have had plenty of experience in this sphere and I hope that US cricket can benefit from that experience. The selection of the US National Men’s, Women’s and Youth cricket teams is based on performance, future potential and suitability to the particular tournament or competitor format. This criterion includes whether it is a 2 day game such as those played in the Auty Cup or a T20 fixture. It also includes the types of pitches that the team will play on the conditions that will prevail in that country or region.”
He further explained that, “The Board of USACA invested in 21 players being considered at the fortnight if international cricket at Fort Lauderdale, including a US citizen based in Queensland. The rationale behind the decision was that the US must field the very best team available and change the manner in which we have selected teams in the past.
The inaugural player we identified for this initiative has been part of one of the most successful cricket programs in Australia, as a member of the Queensland Senior training squad. I personally sought input from Queensland Cricket coaching staff and they believed that Josh Dascombe was well worth considering for international duties in the US. He is available for selection consideration for the T20 tournament in Dubai and should the team be successful in Bermuda, for the 50 over qualifier in New Zealand in 2015.”
I pressed him on what prompted him to bring Josh Dascombe (his mother is American) to play for the United States. Mr Beazley replied;
“This is the first of such experiments that USACA will undertake to ensure that talented US citizens that are playing elite cricket overseas may be considered for national duties in the years ahead. It is all part of the evolution of US cricket to follow world’s best practice and the move towards professionalism.”
I wanted to get more insight from him about the selection process. I asked him, that due to past disappointing performances by the U.S. team in major competition, the perception exists that the selection is based not on merit, but on personal relationships of players with selectors.
His response was:
“The Selection process was as independent as possible. ICC America’s High Performance Manager Mr. Andy Pick was co-opted to assist in the process. He sat in on several meetings due to his knowledge about the player group, his experience and pedigree in high performance management and selection and his independence. He did not have a vote in the final composition of the team, but certainly challenged some of the thinking and his thoughts were debated thoroughly. I myself brought a level of independence as I could only comment on what I saw, not knowing the players personally.
My input was all about ensuring that the three (3) criteria for selection were adhered to by the Selection Group. The input of the National Coach was also an important element that has not been present previously, I am told.
Whilst the process was not perfect, I am satisfied that it gave every player a chance to press his case and for the group to begin to gel. We don’t get many chances for the guys to come together often and this was an excellent opportunity to begin to develop a competitive, cohesive group that we’ll draw our players from for the competitions ahead. I know that the player group is starting to feel that they are building up to something special. Self-belief is something that you nurture when you have your elite groups together.”
I asked him what type of a relationship he plans to develop with the players and what was his message to all the players who came to Florida. His response was;
“I personally spoke to the entire group for 20 minutes at the conclusion of the game vs. Bermuda. I explained that the squad of 21 players that played in the T20 tournament and the practice matches were all leading contenders for national duties in the months ahead.
I explained to them that should a player not get selected for a particular event, it did not mean that the US Selection and Coaching staff did not have faith in their ability or potential to provide great service to the National team in the future. I reiterated that they are men playing in an international sport and that hard decisions need to be made by the administration. Reactions to disappointment are part of the entire process of being an elite cricketer and I encouraged the group to bear this in mind. The conditions that we face in July in Toronto will be very different to those in Bermuda, as will the formats. On that basis, the squad selected for the Auty Cup tournament may be quite different from that selected for the April WCL tournament in Bermuda.”
I believe that this team deserves an opportunity to transform US cricket and to deliver on the plan that they have envisioned. Every new coach and player group deserves the opportunity to prove their worth and the National Selectors have selected a group that they believe can not only succeed in the short term, but in the years ahead.
The ICC World Cricket League Tournament is their first test. For me personally, the result from this tournament is less important. What I want to see is if the new team has the vision and the ability to not only execute on that vision, but also to adapt, as and when their plans don’t go exactly has they had hoped. No plans do.
There is no doubt that the selection process was independent and gave the US the best chance of success in the tournaments ahead. The question here is not whether or not the selection process was correct or not, but does the US have a team capable to progressing beyond Division Three?
As far as I am concerned, the selection process has been a major improvement on those of the past.