Cricket

T20 World Cup: Slow Pitches, Low Scores And A Massive Upset Among Early Tournament Highlights

The result just shows what an unpredictable, ‘On the Day, in the Moment’ game T20 cricket can be. And quite unexpectedly, the USA have made a rousing start to their first-ever T20 World Cup campaign, making it two wins out of two games

AP/Tony Gutierrez
USA have made a rousing start to their first-ever T20 World Cup campaign. Photo: AP/Tony Gutierrez
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It’s early days at the ICC T20 World Cup in the United States of America (USA) and the West Indies but we already have the first major upset, with newcomers USA playing superb cricket and holding their nerves in a thrilling Super Over finish against Pakistan, runners up from the last edition in Australia. (More Cricket News | Full Coverage)

The result just shows what an unpredictable, ‘On the Day, in the Moment’ game T20 cricket can be.

And quite unexpectedly, the USA have made a rousing start to their first-ever T20 World Cup campaign, making it two wins out of two games.

Big contributions came from young Indian-origin players including skipper Monank Patel, pacer Saurabh Netravalkar and all-rounder Nitish Kumar who hit a crucial boundary on the last ball of the match to tie the scores and take the game into a Super Over.

Most of them learnt and played their early cricket in India.

Saurabh Netravalkar who played such a key role in the US win on Thursday over Pakistan, is someone I personally had a chance to work with at a 2009 NCA India U-19 camp, as a Level B intern coach.

As part of the internship program, we were given one batter and one bowler each to study for about a week, and I got Karun Nair and Saurabh Netravalkar. I remember doing PowerPoint presentations on both of them, their strengths and weaknesses, things they needed to work on during training etc., to the NCA faculty, which included Bharat Arun, R Sridhar, Dr Kinjal Suratwala and Dinesh Nanavati at the time.

Netravalkar later played Ranji Trophy for Mumbai. An exceptionally intelligent student, he was always mindful of his academics as well and later went on to work at Oracle as a Software Engineer in the US after graduating from Cornell University.

Another USA cricketer, Harmeet Singh, played for India in the 2012 U-19 World Cup. Harmeet also played in the  Ranji Trophy for Mumbai and Tripura.

Even the USA skipper Monank Patel played in the U-16 Vijay Merchant Trophy for Gujarat. He was born in Anand, the home of AMUL and it wouldn’t be surprising if they came up with one of their adorable ads on him after this performance.

Meanwhile, big concerns remain on the drop-in pitches at the Nassau County International Cricket Stadium, New York, where India play Pakistan on Sunday. Seaming, two-paced wickets with uneven bounce and balls taking off from a good length, climbing steeply and hitting quite a few batters on the body, have caused much consternation amongst the international cricket community. And it led to unacceptably low-scoring games that are such an antithesis to the big totals of the recently concluded Indian Premier League.

The slow, sand-based outfields where the ball does not travel, have only added to overall level of difficulty and if this trend continues, teams with big power hitters like Australia and South Africa will enjoy a distinct advantage over teams like India who maintain good strike rates, more by working the ball around.

The fast bowlers aren’t exactly complaining, specially after the run glut of the IPL, and are probably relishing the prospect of getting a bit of their own back again. But the wickets do not look safe enough at this time to host a fair contest at the international level, much less an intense, high-pressure India-Pakistan game, where emotions would invariably run high.

However, there is no word from the ICC on any contingency plans to switch any of the New York games to other venues at this point of time.

There have been similar concerns about the pitches at the nearby practice facility, and South Africa’s batters felt unsafe enough to opt for throw downs at practice rather than facing their own bowlers. South Africa, by the way, look to be a very strong side on paper and would definitely be one of the top contenders for the title.

These are therefore serious issues that need to be looked at urgently, and could potentially derail the US leg of this much-looked-forward-to tournament, unless resolved by the ICC quickly.

Sri Lanka have already been bowled out for 77 and Ireland for 96 in two of the initial games of the tournament. Even then, the chases have not been as easy as would be expected. In the India-Ireland game alone, skipper Rohit Sharma had to retire hurt after being struck on the elbow and Ireland’s Harry Tector needed a concussion test after being hit on the helmet. Rishabh Pant was similarly struck on the body before ending the game with an outrageous reverse scoop.

So, suddenly having four spinners in the side does not look like such a good idea anymore.

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It could be worrisome if these poor run of scores and injuries continued and became a trend that no one wants. That would indeed be a shame and completely take the shine out of this tournament.

It would amount to defeating one of its objectives, that of promoting cricket in countries where it is not so popular

The views and opinions expressed are those of the author. The author is a veteran Wing Commander of the Indian Air Force, who has played Ranji Trophy for Services.

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