By Ravendra Madholall
Former USA skipper Steve Massiah is batting for his adopting country USA at the International Cricket Council (ICC) Men’s T20 World Cup Global Qualifiers B which is slated to commence on Monday in Zimbabwe. The tournament will have eight countries participating for the two opening spots. The champions will then travel to Australia for the mega event which starts October 16th.
Massiah who represented his native Guyana at the regional youth level before his migration to North America, has expressed profound confidence that the US side will emerge as one of the top teams at the tournament that has a duration of seven consecutive days.
“I [am] confident of the guys doing well in Zimbabwe and could be one of the winning sides heading to Australia; USA have played enough limited-over cricket over the past months and that should boost their confidence tremendously for this important assignment,” the 43-year-old Massiah related.
For this showpiece, in Group A, USA will open their campaign against Jersey before tackling Singapore and then clashing with Zimbabwe. The four countries in Group B are: Hong Kong, Netherlands, Papua New Guinea and Uganda. They will have playoffs before a semi-final segment and subsequently the final on July 17th.
“The team looks very balanced and of course full of talented players who no doubt are eager to make an impact for USA; they just have to play positive cricket and enjoy their game and that is very simple,” Massiah, who led USA to their first International T20 victory against Canada over a decade ago, mentioned.
The Global Qualifiers A teams have been confirmed and they are: Ireland and United Arab Emirates who has joined the 12 other nations with automatic qualifications.
“This is a great opportunity for the guys to play at the World Cup tournament in Australia; obviously the biggest cricket event and they a have good chance to be there later this year but first they have to play competitive cricket in Zimbabwe; they have prepared well too for the competition and it is time they just embrace the challenge,” Massiah optimistically commented.
The technically-corrected right-handed Massiah who made his debut for USA in 2004 at the ICC Champions trophy in England against New Zealand, reckoned that USA’s biggest challenge comes against Netherland who have been playing impressive cricket of recent.
“Netherland’s cricket has improved rapidly and admirably over the years and they could be the only team I see might pose a major threat to USA, but again USA have quality and experienced players who could take them to the next stage,” Massiah reasoned.
Massiah stated that captain Monank Patel has shown that he can lead from the front, who is an excellent player and should lead the side to championship while Vice-captain Aaron Jones is another player with a wealth of experience. He (Massiah) feels the other players have done immensely well for USA and they are all anxious to make USA proud now.
“I have great expectations that these guys are super excited to play in Australia; this will be a great recognition for USA as well to participate at a global event of this magnitude and they will churn out good performances,” Massiah expressed.
Quizzed on if this will be added pressure on US since the highly -populated country will be hosting the next edition in 2024 jointly with West Indies. In accordance with ICC’s rules and stipulation, any host-country of the Universal event will be automatically qualified.
“As I said they just have to embrace the occasion in Zimbabwe, come out there as the winner or the runners-up side and go to Australia and show the world that USA’s cricket is on a steady rise; that will be a perfect opportunity and given the fact we will be a host in 2024, it will be massive for our cricket as well in North America,” Massiah who appeared in all three formats for USA before his retirement, said.
Notably, Massiah captained USA for ten years on two separate occasions, 7 and 3. He rated Steven Taylor as an asset in the team revealing he is a naturally talented player and his explosive style at the top would be ideal for this excited format.