New York drop-in pitch in focus ahead of T20 World Cup’s India leg | Crickit
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New York drop-in pitch in focus ahead of T20 World Cup’s India leg

Jun 04, 2024 08:25 PM IST

With the new track having had little time to settle, pacers were difficult to score off in the SL-SA match.

Anrich Nortje is perhaps the only one applauding the pitch in New York that saw South Africa and Sri Lanka aggregating 157 runs at 4.4 runs per over in their T20 World Cup opener on Monday. Smarting from the pasting (ER 13.36) he received in a high-scoring IPL, Nortje, who returned figures of 4-0-7-4 against Sri Lanka, argued why it wasn’t 20 sixes alone that made cricket entertaining.

General view of play at Nassau County International Cricket Stadium on June 03, 2024 in New York.(Getty Images via AFP)
General view of play at Nassau County International Cricket Stadium on June 03, 2024 in New York.(Getty Images via AFP)

While that may be true in theory, there’s been enough T20 cricket to know spectators enjoy run fests more. Even on surfaces that allow a greater bat-ball balance, it’s targets in the range of 160 that prove to be entertaining.

Sri Lanka captain Wanindu Hasaranga felt they erred trying to reach 160-170 on what he felt was a 120-run wicket. By any measuring index, that’s not good enough for the game’s fastest format being introduced to a new audience.

What was on show at the Nassau County International Stadium – a ground 30 miles south of New York – was plenty of uneven bounce – spongy at times, sometimes low. Every time a fast bowler like Nortje banged in the ball, he surprised batters with extra lift. When the Sri Lanka bowlers came on to bowl, even strictly medium-pacers like Dasun Shanaka and Angelo Matthews troubled the batters with movement off the surface all through the game. One didn’t see too much spin from both sides, but the slow spinning deliveries of both Keshav Maharaj and Hasaranga were not easy to hit.

New York is the only venue in this World Cup where drop-in pitches are being used. The process itself where pitches are prepared in one part of the world and transported to another is no novelty. It’s been a regular feature on multi-purpose grounds in Australia. The worry though is that the Nassau County drop-in pitch was forced to go into match mode with only one competitive warm-up match between India and Bangladesh played on it.

With a formal agreement between the County and the International Cricket Council (ICC) signed only six months before the World Cup, they had less than ideal time to get New York ready to host eight matches – the only venue other than Antigua and Barbados that will host that many matches. Although Damian Hough, who also works on drop-in pitches at Adelaide, said in a recent media call that he was happy with the timelines, there was always the fear of the unknown with pitches not getting sufficient time to settle.

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Four of the 10 pitches are available for matches while the others in a park adjacent to the main ground are being used for practice.

The behaviour of the practice pitches has also forced players to be careful while facing fast bowlers. “Yes, we didn’t know it’s all (pitches) from the same,” said Nortje. “It was a little bit up and down as well in the nets. But we need to train and the batters also need to train. It’s not always nice to go out and face balls jumping up, I think you adapt to it on the day and rather work on what you want to in the nets. That’s why I think one or two of the guys eventually walked out, but they were still batting facing us. It’s just also you don’t want to get hit.”

TESTING START FOR INDIA

Indian head coach Rahul Dravid has suggested that their practice pitches were spicier to begin with before settling down. With India playing three of their four league matches in New York, they would dearly hope that’s how the match pitches would also play out. India begin their campaign on Wednesday against Ireland, who can prove to be tricky opponents. They then have the mega clash against Pakistan followed by the match against co-hosts USA.

The four spinners in India’s squad of 15 may have been selected for the slower pitches in the West Indies. But to stay on course for the Super 8s, India would like at least two wins under their belt before heading to Florida to face Canada. If the pitches continue to offer inconsistent bounce to pacers, India may want more bowling out of all-rounders Hardik Pandya and Shivam Dube.

Hough said he was after “pace, bounce, where players can play their shots...not a lot of seam or spin”. On the evidence of the first match, it hasn’t exactly panned out that way.

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