Rohit Sharma doing fine but New York’s drop-in pitch faces criticism; ICC mum


Rohit Sharma‘s bruised bicep is expected to heal before the game against Pakistan on Sunday but the Nassau County ground‘s track, which is “bordering on dangerous with huge open cracks”, has become a concern for stakeholders of the game trying to sell cricket in America through the ongoing T20 World Cup. India opened their campaign with an eight-wicket win in a low-scoring match against Ireland, who were bowled out of 96 in just 16 overs. Rohit, who scored a half century in the successful chase, was hit on his right bicep by pacer Josh Little and was forced to retire hurt. The ball that struck him suddenly took off from length on a pitch that offered a great degree of uneven bounce. Rishabh Pant was also hit on his left elbow during his 36 not out,

“Rohit’s injury isn’t serious. He himself said that it’s a bit sore. He should be okay for Pakistan game (on Sunday) as of now. There are two practice sessions before that,” a senior BCCI source told PTI on conditions of anonymity.

Injury scare aside, the nature of the pitch, a drop-in one brought from Adelaide specifically for the World Cup, has raised eyebrows. India are scheduled to play two more games at this stadium.

Player of the final from India’s 2007 T20 World Cup triumph, Irfan Pathan, hardly minced words as he criticised the pitch, calling it unsafe.

“Look, we definitely want to promote cricket in America, but this pitch is not safe for players. If we had a pitch like this in India, a match would never be played there again for a very long time,” he said on Star Sports. “This pitch is definitely not good. I mean, we are talking about the World Cup here, not even a bilateral series,” he asserted. Also unimpressed was former England captain Michael Vaughan.

“Trying to sell the game in the states is great.. love it.. but for players to have to play on this sub-standard surface in New York is unacceptable… You work so hard to make it to the WC then have to play on this,” he wrote on his X handle.

Rohit was bewildered by the track’s behaviour and conceded that he didn’t know what to expect from it against Pakistan. The team’s batting coach Vikram Rathour was a shade more reticent in his analysis.

“It is a challenging wicket as far as batting is concerned but this is what we have. So we need to find ways to deal with that,” Rathour said in the post-match press conference, placing the onus on his team to find ways to score.

The ICC has not reacted to the criticism so far and the Indian team management is unlikely to file any official complaint. But the displeasure is clear about the nature of the track, which according to some who saw, is “unfit for T20 cricket” and “bordering on dangerous”.

“It is actually a very fresh pitch. There is a grass cover but along with it are big cracks. So, it will seam but also take off from length. Now when you have a fresh track like this, you first try out a few games like you do with beta testing of a new app,” the source explained.

“Then you release it in the market. It is not a T20 wicket and all four tracks look the same,” said another source after a first-hand look at the track following the match.

May be a roller would even out the cracks but such pitches are known to take time to settle for batting.

While Indian pacers literally toyed with a very competent T20 outfit like Ireland, even the biggest fan of Arshdeep Singh wouldn’t have imagined that his deliveries would take off like surface to air missiles.

“One should be glad that nothing serious happened to Rohit and Rishabh (Pant). They are fine,” the source added.

However, Ireland’s Harry Tector had to undergo a mandatory concussion test after a nasty snorter from Jasprit Bumrah first hit his gloves and then flush on the helmet before Virat Kohli completed the catch.

The ICC rules on quality of pitches are quite clear. An assessment would only be done once the tournament is over and if found sub-standard, the track’s overall rating would go down.

Adding to the chorus of criticism was former Zimbabwe captain and renowed coach Andy Flower.

“I have got to say that is not a good surface to play an international match on. It’s bordering on dangerous,” Flower said on ‘ESPNcricinfo‘s Timeout’ show.

Former India batter Sanjay Manjrekar feels the pitch is under-prepared.

“You have seen dangerous pitches before as well at the international level but something has gone wrong with the preparation where either the pitch has been under-prepared or something that is beyond their control,” Manjrekar said.

“I am sure it is not lack of effort. At the most what you can do is keep rolling that drop-in pitch but they have a problem in hand. Inherently, I think there is something wrong with the base of that surface.”

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