Contentious New York pitch, lack of attention to Florida outfield expose chinks in ICC's planning for T20 World Cup | Crickit
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Contentious New York pitch, lack of attention to Florida outfield expose chinks in ICC's planning for T20 World Cup

Jun 16, 2024 09:58 AM IST

T20 World Cup 2024: The intention to bring cricket to the United States is laudable, but when actions don’t match intent, there must be accountability.

This wasn’t how India would have wanted their Group A campaign to end, not with their final fixture against Canada being abandoned even before the toss. It hadn’t rained for nearly 21 hours when umpires Richard Kettleborough and Sharfouddula pulled the plug at the Broward County Stadium, deeming that one troublesome patch on the outfield wouldn’t mend enough for even a five-over shootout to eventuate on Saturday.

Pitch remains covered as it rains on and off prior to the start of the Group A match between India and Canada in the ICC Mens T20 World Cup 2024, at Central Broward Park & Broward County Stadium in Florida on Saturday(Surjeet Yadav)
Pitch remains covered as it rains on and off prior to the start of the Group A match between India and Canada in the ICC Mens T20 World Cup 2024, at Central Broward Park & Broward County Stadium in Florida on Saturday(Surjeet Yadav)

The no-show was disappointing for players from both sides. For India, it was a great opportunity to put their batting travails, catalysed by less-than-ideal pitches in New York, behind them and carry confidence to the Super Eight stage. For the Canadians, who had put it past Ireland last week, the chance to test themselves against the best in the world might have come at a price, but it would have catapulted them to rarefied cricketing territory, if only for a three and something hours.

For the fans, the prospect of seeing their favourite stars plying their wares was so tempting that they refused to accept the reality that there might be no play. Nearly 5,000 of them turned up, draped in India’s Blue, paying through their nose – parking fees at the venue alone were US $40 – and hoping for the best. Not even the fact that they will get a full refund on their ticket wiped the unhappiness off their faces; clearly, their investment was more than just financial.

And to think that a little more financial investment from the powers that be could so easily have avoided this all-round embarrassment.

One of the avowed goals of the T20 World Cup was to spread the gospel of cricket in these lands, where the sport hardly has a presence. This competition was seen as a vehicle to launch 20-over cricket, but one isn’t sure if the vehicle has travelled far. Drop-in pitches and a sand-based outfield at the Nassau County International Cricket Stadium in New York sucked the entertainment out of T20 cricket, reducing batting to an endeavour fraught with danger. The lack of attention to the outfield in Fort Lauderdale in what is clearly the hurricane month – why wasn’t the entire outfield draped in covers, like at the Eden Gardens or all venues in Sri Lanka? – stood out like a sore thumb, exposing chinks in the International Cricket Council’s planning. The intention to bring cricket to the United States is laudable, but when actions don’t match intent, there must be accountability.

There is always an explanation – an excuse, you say? – for how things unfolded the way they did, with the most obvious being man’s helplessness against Nature. But the abandonments on Friday (US vs Ireland) and Saturday were man made disasters. They were avoidable, for sure; there’s a lesson in it for all concerned, who will do well to heed it instead of taking umbrage at criticism which isn’t just for the sake of it, by the way.

How India fared in group stage of 2024 T20 World Cup

Back to India, and a successful American hop on their way to the Caribbean islands, where they will further their quest for their first world title since 2011 and their first global silverware since the Champions Trophy in 2013. They have every reason to be proud of how their campaign has unfolded. Virat Kohli apart, the top five have all spent meaningful match-time in demanding conditions that should allow them to bat with confidence on better pitches. Rishabh Pant has relished his promotion to No. 3 while Suryakumar Yadav and Shivam Dube toughed it out against US. Skipper Rohit Sharma began the competition with a pleasing half-century and while Kohli will loom as a giant shadow, it’s only a matter of time before he regains his mojo and starts constructing the monumental edifices that were commonplace during the IPL.

The sustained excellence of Jasprit Bumrah shaded the rest of the bowling group, though Hardik Pandya was loud and clear in proclaiming his return to wicket-taking ways. Arshdeep Singh and Mohammed Siraj have been more than competent, and while India might not always field a four-man pace battery in the Caribbean, Rohit will be delighted that all his four pacers are in grand rhythm.

The spinners didn’t have much to do in New York – between them, Axar Patel and Ravindra Jadeja only bowled nine overs in three matches – but they will be a greater force in the West Indies. India will be buoyed by the knowledge that victories have been achieved without Kuldeep Yadav, the left-arm wrist-spinner who has been one of their most regular match-winners in recent times. What a luxury, to be able to fall back on someone of Kuldeep’s calibre!

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