By Peter Della Penna in DubaiTODAY, USA will become the 28th country to play a men’s T20I when they take on UAE at the ICC Academy in Dubai.Coming from a place where T20 has been touted as the only possible gateway to crack the broader domestic sports market, the build-up has been low-key for what on paper is a historic occasion.But that hasn’t kept USA coach Pubudu Dassanayake and his players from appreciating the significance of the new frontier ahead of them.Speaking to ESPNcricinfo on the eve of USA’s first T20I outing, Dassanayake is hoping the two-match series will provide the opportunity to lay solid groundwork for a successful T20 World Cup Qualifying campaign later in the year as well as a lead-in to their attempt at securing ODI status at WCL Division Two in Namibia next month.“Of course, it’s the first T20 International USA is playing, so we want to win, so winning is important,” Dassanayake said. “But having said that, at the end of this year there’s a big tournament coming up – the T20 global qualifier – and regional qualifiers.“So we want to see what is our best combination and best players for that version. We’re going to try a few combinations tomorrow and the day after and see what’s best for us.“When we are talking about T20 into the 50-overs, we want to improve our death bowling; we want to improve our power-hitting ability. So all of these training tours, today, tomorrow and even the T20 games going into 50-overs, we’ve got to cover a few things for us to shape up in the 50 overs as well.”USA’s biggest obstacle might have less to do with the opponents on the field and more to do with the effects of jet-lag. The squad had staggered arrivals over the course of the previous day, while Roy Silva missed the team’s lone training session altogether after his flight didn’t come in late yesterday morning.However, captain Saurabh Netravalkar was upbeat about how the team has acclimatised to the 32-degree desert heat after coming out of the winter. Former New South Wales fast bowler Burt Cockley, who now lives in Kansas, has been working with the USA squad to lay out a strength-and-conditioning programme to improve their fitness through the winter leading up to this tour – something Netravalkar says will be a key factor in their ability to hit the ground running.The biggest addition to the USA squad is the recall of former West Indies Test batsman Xavier Marshall, who debuted for his adopted home in January 2018 but was left out of USA’s last three tournament squads to round out 2018. But he has been given a lifeline to re-enter the squad and is expected to come charging hard at the top of the order after top-scoring in an intra-squad trial match last month during a warm-up tour in Antigua.“The calibre of the player, you have no second thoughts,” Netravalkar said of Marshall. “He has played Test cricket, and his quality is right up there. But the passion that we saw in him in Antigua, the intensity that he put in his training sessions every day, it’s not just in Antigua.
Published on March 23, 2016 at 11:31 pm Contact Jesse: firstname.lastname@example.org | @dougherty_jesse Facebook Twitter Google+ ST. LOUIS — Following Syracuse’s practice at the Scottrade Center this past Saturday, Brad Pike was a one-man assembly line.Without ever looking at his hands, Pike grabbed small plastic bags, filled them with ice, twisted a tie around the top and added to a pile at the end of the trainer’s table. He told players to come get their ice, held short side conversations with other staff members and even stole a glance or two at the basketball playing on the locker room’s TV. All while the ice kept flowing.But for Pike, whose official title with Syracuse is assistant athletics director for sports medicine, post-practice icing is a simple task. Mindless, even. Just a small part of a season-long routine that keeps the Orange’s tight seven-man rotation as fresh as a tight seven-man rotation can be during an NCAA Tournament run in late March.And as that routine rolls along, the same question always lingers in the back of Pike’s head. A very important question. A question that can be the difference between SU’s players feeling settled or unsatisfied at the end of the day. A question that everyone thinks about but Pike has to answer, not just for himself but for a team of college-aged men and the full Syracuse basketball staff.What is the team’s next meal going to be?AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“I plan all of our meals on the road,” Pike said, still twisting bags of ice. “… I want to make sure to fill their stomach up with good stuff so they’re not looking for bad stuff later.“Or, if they do look for the bad stuff later, it’s going to be in a small amount versus, ‘I didn’t really like the food, I didn’t eat anything.’”When Syracuse received an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament two Sundays ago, Pike started considering the travel variables: St. Louis, a city he hasn’t visited with the Orange, is in the Midwest. The Midwest traditionally has good beef. Beef is one of the core entrees of the Orange’s five-meal rotation. A good start, but only the beginning.Pike then flipped open his laptop and got to work, pulling up a spreadsheet that shows every meal SU has eaten on the road over the last five or so seasons. He has the meals sorted by date, hotel and, most importantly, quality. He’s started to see trends in this matrix of ingredients and hotel chains, like what to eat in certain regions of the country and what different hotels make well. That was how he mapped each meal for the Orange’s five-day trip to St. Louis — which eventually included two wins in three days to advance to the Sweet 16. By 2 p.m. that Monday, Pike was finished and he called the St. Louis City Center Hotel to start discussing his meal-by-meal plan. When the Orange landed there Wednesday, the next step was to make sure it unfolded seamlessly.“There are always wrinkles, like last year I gave in on bacon because Rakeem Christmas was a bacon addict,” Pike said. “But then I worry about the hotel keeping it crispy enough, and other things like trying to make the meals too gourmet and putting in oils and butters. We try and keep it a bit cleaner. This hotel in St. Louis did a great job of that, but I worry.”A lot of what Syracuse does on the road, in terms of food, fits the season-long roadmap. Pike makes sure there are healthy sandwiches within an hour of the team’s workouts every day to restore the glycogen in the players’ muscles. He tries to make sure each rotational player drinks half his body weight in ounces of water every day, which decreases fatigue and gets rid of the byproducts of exercise. There’s always pasta the night before games. There’s always things to consider at breakfast, like if he can get the preferable cage-free eggs and which players’ stomachs are sensitive to certain “mixes” in the morning.Somewhere in between all that, the meals are plugged in.“It pretty much goes like this, Brad points us all to a room and then there’s just all this food in there,” said SU walk-on Doyin Akintobi-Adeyeye. “And really it’s like, ‘Damn, where did this all come from?’ We don’t even see it. And it’s not just food anyone can make, it’s good.”Syracuse is already in Chicago, where a Friday night meeting with 11th-seeded Gonzaga awaits. Last weekend, Pike said he felt good knowing the team was probably staying in a nice hotel with a good chef. But there will always be questions. Is the cod as good there as it was in St. Louis? What’s the signature meat? What else does Chicago traditionally do well?And then there’s the deep-dish pizza, a staple of the city’s food vernacular. Will there be room for that on the menu?“Pizza is not bad,” Pike said smiling, then straightened his face and realized he’s responsible for 17 impulsive eaters. “I mean it can be bad. Anything in excess is bad. I’ll have to watch out for that.” Comments Related Stories How Dajuan Coleman can provide an added bonus for SyracuseBlum: Syracuse playing rest of NCAA Tournament on borrowed timeWhy Tyler Roberson can be a consistently dominant rebounder for SyracuseSyracuse basketball opponent preview: What to know about GonzagaSyracuse basketball roundtable: How to handle Gonzaga’s threats and how SU can improve