Khaleel and Alexander in line for USA debuts

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‘No results without hard work’ – Mrunal Patel

Former Hyderabad wicketkeeper Ibrahim Khaleel and former Windward Islands legspinning allrounder Camilus Alexander are in line to make their debuts for USA next month after being included in a 14-man squad for ICC WCL Division Three in Uganda.

Khaleel, 34, and Alexander, 35, are two of three uncapped players in the squad with left-arm spinner Nosthush Kenjige also coming into the squad. One other change was made from the squad that won WCL Division Four in November as left-arm spinning allrounder Mrunal Patel, who last played for USA at the 2015 World T20 Qualifier in Ireland, has been recalled. Batsmen Abdullah Syed and Ravi Timbawala and left-arm spinners Danial Ahmed and Prashanth Nair are the four players dropped.

Khaleel’s eligibility for Division Three was touch and go because he did not meet the ICC’s four-year residency requirement for non-citizen players classified as nationals, despite officially having “green card” permanent resident status in the USA, because he had spent too much time out of the country during his final season with Hyderabad in 2014-15. However, he obtained his USA citizenship and passport on April 14, removing him from the four-year category and making him fully eligible.

Alexander moved to Atlanta from Grenada in 2012 and qualifies as a four-year resident. Alexander earned his spot after he excelled with the bat at a pair of USA national team camps in Houston in March and April when he was in a head-to-head competition with former Sri Lanka first-class batsman Roy Silva. Both Khaleel and Alexander are expected to fill key middle-order batting positions, something coach Pubudu Dassanayake had identified as a problem area that needed to be addressed when selecting a squad for Division Three.

“We feel these players will boost the squad’s batting depth and also its flexibility, with additional spin bowling options,” said Ricardo Powell, USA national selection chairman. “We wish the selected players and coaching staff all the best for their preparation and a successful event.”

Ibrahim Khaleel will add first-class experience to USA’s squad © Peter Della Penna

While Khaleel and Alexander have lengthy resumes in first-class cricket prior to being picked for this tour, Kenjige’s expected debut provides a bit of intrigue. The 26-year-old took eight wickets in three trial games during the first Houston squad camp in March. That included a five-wicket haul in which he claimed the wickets of USA captain Steven Taylor as well as fellow squad members Nicholas Standford, Akeem Dodson and Khaleel.

Though he was born in Alabama, Kenjige played most of his developmental cricket in Karnataka before resettling in New York in 2016, where he first caught the attention of selectors at an ICC Americas regional combine last June. He is expected to be a significant upgrade over Ahmed, who took 1 for 135 in 32 overs across five games at WCL Division Four in November, and is also a superb fielder.

One other player whose availability had been in question was batsman Alex Amsterdam, who led USA’s scoring at Division Four with 213 runs at 53.25. According to several team sources, the middle-order batsman was struggling to get time off work for Division Three after spending a month in Barbados earlier this year playing for the ICC Americas squad at the WICB Regional Super50. Amsterdam did not come to the initial USA camp in March and was not among the original 18 names invited to a further selection camp in Houston in April, owing to time off work, but was a late addition to the April camp and will be touring Uganda.

USA will have a weeklong camp in Los Angeles beginning on May 6 to kick off their final preparations for Division Three. They are then scheduled to land in South Africa on May 16 for a pre-tournament camp and warm-up matches at North West University in Potchefstroom before arriving in Uganda on May 21. Their first match at WCL Division Three is against Oman on May 23. USA will also be competing with Canada, Malaysia, Singapore and the hosts for a top-two finish to secure promotion to WCL Division Two.

Peter Della Penna is ESPNcricinfo’s USA correspondent. @PeterDellaPenna

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