T20 WC: New York surface invites criticism

Prameyanews English

Published By : Prameya News Bureau | June 07, 2024 IST

New York Stadium

New York, June 7: The Americans were not known much for their fascination towards cricket. For decades the game of cricket never really was popular in America. But in last few years, the acceptability and popularity of cricket also made small inroads into the USA.

The T20 World Cup 2024 is the ideal showcase cricket event to capture the audience of the richest nation in the world, the United States of America. A significant amount of money has been invested to host venues suitable for an ICC prestige tournament like the T20 World Cup.

India and Pakistan, the popular cricket-playing nations, were quite understandably earmarked to play all their initial league matches in the US. The financial and commercial gains of doing so, not only presently but in the future as well, were the sole attraction that all the stakeholders and the ICC had very much for it. After all, if cricket has to progress to the phenomenal level of the other US based sporting events, the last stop for cricket to do so is the country of Uncle Sam.

The idea of bringing international cricket into the US has been in the pipeline for a number of years on account of the influx of a huge population from the cricket-playing countries.

To get a sport into the heart of a nation, it has to first make its way into the sporting curriculum in schools as well as at the junior level.

Unfortunately, cricket has not made a dent over there, as one needs infrastructure that inculcates and encourages a youngster to take up the sport. This only comes through adulation and following the sporting heroes in a sport that is popular amongst one’s peers.

Cricket, therefore, in the US will remain, for the time being, a sport watched and followed by ageing people from the cricket-playing countries. The diaspora who at present reside and follow the sport that has an emotional connection to them personally. This is a dwindling population of cricket followers; whose young broods have no significant connection to the sport.

The spotlight match of this T20 World Cup is the clash between India and Pakistan at the Nassau Stadium in New York on Sunday, June 9. It is not cricket that has the stadium filling up with spectators rushing out to buy a ticket to the match at an exorbitant rate, but the spectacle between two nations who are fighting for victory on a different battlefield. The eyeballs that will witness it via the digital and television media would be huge and one worthy of an exciting cricket encounter.

Unfortunately, cricket may not be at its best, as the pitch condition may not be conducive to playing good cricket, especially, as the two earlier matches at the New York venue have been a disappointing cricketing affair. India and Pakistan boast of a very strong pace attack and one feels sorry for the batters to face bowlers of such class on a cricketing minefield. The uneven bounce and balls rising from good length spots could lead to a major injury. Stroke-play would be difficult and survival even more. This is where one feels, the ICC and USA Cricket have failed miserably.

The India versus Ireland on June 5 at the Nassau Stadium in New York was a cricketing disaster. The sport is not about putting up scaffolding as stands, eateries and bars in all corners of the stadium, but about having good playing conditions for a cricketer to show his prowess. The pitch was substandard and one that a major World Cup cricket match should never have been played on. India did win the match against Ireland quite convincingly, however, batters from both sides were not only struggling to survive but also worried about a possible injury.

Harry Tector, a good young batter from Ireland, was dismissed through a treacherous delivery from India’s speedster, Jasprit Bumrah, who grazed his gloves and hit his helmet to finally get caught in the covers by Kohli. Rohit Sharma, the Indian captain, had to retire hurt after getting a gutsy half-century because of a body injury. Batsmen from both sides were like boxers escaping being flattened by weaving and ducking in order to avoid a punch. One felt sorry for the less skilful Irish batsmen, being pitted against the lethal Indian pace bowling attack of Bumrah, Md. Siraj, Arshdeep and Hardik Pandya.

The match previously played on June 3 between Sri Lanka and South Africa was a similar low-scoring dismal one because of the pitch as well. Sri Lanka were skittled out for 77 runs and South Africa struggled to get past it.

Fortunately, no player has been badly injured till now, however, one is unaware of the body blow bruises that batters are recovering from. The wicket in Nassau is a mine field waiting for a disaster to occur. Furthermore, the sand-based outfield is another blemish that has emerged. The soft sand is very similar to a golfer landing in a sand bunker. This naturally makes it more difficult for a batter to get a boundary.

Furthermore, for a fielder, the softness of the ground could cause a hamstring injury as well as muscle fatigue.

The India versus Pakistan match fortunately is not a do-or-die affair. Both sides should in all probability make it to the Super 8. One hopes that the ground staff at Nassau work tirelessly to prepare a wicket on May 9 that will do justice to play a good game of cricket.

Another low-scoring match would have even the most diehard USA-based fans run away into the comfort of their homes. Then, cricket in the US will be the loser.

The shortest format of cricket is expected to provide entertainment and more revenue for the organisers. However, if pitch conditions are not conducive for better cricket, then the players, fans and the organisers are likely to be upset. That may not be a healthy beginning for cricket promotion in the USA. (with IANS support)   

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