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T20 World Cup: Soggy ground and drop-in pitch let down the US leg

Jun 17, 2024 08:50 AM IST

The ICC too must take blame for the abandoned matches and a surface that didn't let T20s live up to its image as a batting spectacle

Two successive Group A matches in the T20 World Cup were abandoned — on Friday and Saturday — without a ball bowled. When news of excessive rainfall and flash floods in southern Florida hit the headlines earlier in the week, these washouts seemed very much on the cards. Except that the forecast became better closer to the games, so much so that there was very little rain in Lauderhill on match days. In both games — US versus Ireland and India versus Canada — some amount of cricket should have then been possible.

Fans fill the stands at the Nassau County International Cricket Stadium during the ICC Men's T20 World Cup cricket match between United States and India(AP)

The culprit was a damp outfield at the Central Broward Park stadium, particularly one part of it that continued to remain soggy underfoot and thereby dangerous for play despite extensive efforts by the ground staff for close to 48 hours. It can’t make for great optics when matches in a T20 World Cup are abandoned in this manner. To be fair, the region did see tropical storms and record rainfall at the beginning of the week. According to a report in Forbes, southern Florida saw 20 inches of rain in less than 24 hours on Wednesday, which is double the historical average rainfall for all of June.

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But once the rain abated, the ground should have been equipped with an effective drainage system. That wasn’t the case.

The wet conditions had dire consequences for Pakistan. Having lost to the United States earlier in the tournament, Pakistan needed Ireland to prevail against the co-hosts to advance to the Super Eight stage. Any other result and USA would be through in their maiden T20 World Cup campaign. As it turned out, the Irish and American players were sat in their dressing rooms on Friday without ever getting onto the field for play while the umpires carried out numerous inspections, but to no avail.

By the time Pakistan played Ireland at the same venue on Sunday, the situation had drifted out of their control. The American players, now preparing for the Super Eight stage, wouldn’t be complaining of course.

So, what could the International Cricket Council (ICC) have done to avoid this in Lauderhill? While Pakistan spinner Imad Wasim was sympathetic to the governing body and ground staff given the unprecedented rain, he suggested that covering up the entire ground is an option going forward. It is usually a routine practice at Sri Lankan venues and even at Eden Gardens in Kolkata.

Before the India-Pakistan clash on June 9, legitimate fears about the pitch playing spoilsport prompted ICC to say that it is working hard to “remedy the situation”. (HT)

“This depends on ICC — how they will review this,” Wasim told reporters before their match against Ireland. “I think, if the wicket and square is dry, I’ll give you one reason – when we play in Sri Lanka, they cover the entire ground. And the venue where the game is being played, there are around 30-35 people to take care of this. I think ICC will review this and the ground should be completely covered, so as soon as the rain stops, we can play the match.”

This episode may not offer much leeway if ICC attempts to make the US a more regular destination for cricket. What also won’t help matters are the surfaces that were in use at the makeshift Nassau County International Cricket Stadium in Long Island, New York.

Here, the ICC must take some blame for not ensuring that the drop-in pitches, brought in from Adelaide, were installed well in advance and tested adequately before being used in the tournament. The unpredictable bounce on these pitches resulted in some unusually low-scoring games, not ideal in a format designed to help batters entertain with big shots. Barring Ireland scoring 125/7 in response to Canada’s 137/7, none of the other seven matches at the venue saw either team surpassing even 120.

Before the India-Pakistan clash on June 9, legitimate fears about the pitch playing spoilsport prompted ICC to say that it is working hard to “remedy the situation”. But the nature of the surfaces didn’t really improve post that statement. The scrutiny could have been much worse had any player suffered a serious injury.

It must be noted that every pedigreed cricket-playing country in the world has had to face such obstacles in the past. If the US is to be taken seriously as a destination for the game beyond this T20 World Cup – the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics will feature cricket – it is imperative for the stakeholders to tide over these teething troubles.

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