Getting USA cricket-ready

26 May 2010 by Mahendra Prasad in Cricket
Cricket stadium in Lauderhill, Florida

Cricket stadium in Lauderhill, Florida

The two-match T20 series between Sri Lanka and New Zealand held in Florida, in an effort to spread the tentacles of the game wider, wasn’t anywhere close to spectacular.

The series was tied 1-1, but that was hardly of any significance. What was of consequence was the fact that both the games were disappointingly low, slow, and one-sided affairs.

Sri Lanka were shot out for 92 in the opening game, and New Zealand crumbled to 81 in the second — hardly ideal when the initiative was to present the game to a global audience, via its most fast-paced version.

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Let’s not say that the experiment was a failure though. On the contrary, the short series should be seen as a stepping stone towards building future blocks.

As evident from the contests between New Zealand and Sri Lanka, there is plenty of scope for improvement as the International Cricket Council looks to promote cricket in the nation of its most-superior elder brother, baseball! What the ICC did get right was the selection of the right format to promote the game among the Americans.

Next, they need to concentrate on providing better surfaces than the ones presently available. With the slow, low pitches, it was hardly surprising that the batting crumbed in both the matches, and that only two sixes were hit in either game.

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Even the average cricket fan will not be attracted to such dull affairs, leave alone the fast-paced Americans. The ideal situation would have been for both teams to score in excess of at least 160, and the matches going into the last over. Such things, however, cannot be scripted.

Conversely, chances of that happening can be accelerated by the efforts of providing batsman-friendly pitches. And, that must be the paramount motive in the minds of the ICC for a start. They shouldn’t sit back thinking, things will improve as time goes along, and must act swiftly.

Moving on, having proper facilities is highly significant to make the players feel at home, and encourage them to perform to the best of their abilities. While there were no major complaints from either side during the recently-concluded experimental series, New Zealand skipper Daniel Vettori aptly pointed out, “Most international grounds probably need those off-field facilities where you can train while the game is going on.”

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The absence of such basic necessities were felt by the players even during such a short tourney, emphasizing its significance. With cricket not even being a pass time in the USA, the cricket board of the country cannot be expected to fulfil this criteria. Here again, the ICC must step in and ensure that everything is in order before the next major tournament takes place.

Even though nothing major was achieved with the two matches played, it wasn’t an exercise entirely in futility either. At least the people of USA got a glimpse of T20, albeit a slower adaptation.

However, the fact that both teams admitted to enjoying playing in Florida is a definite positive. While the objective was to pull the crowds it, it is equally important for the players to feel comfortable and relaxed.

Only when they are pleased with the surroundings will they be able to entertain the crowds. The start may have been slow and unsteady. Yet, cricket lovers must support the ICC in its globalizing endeavour. And so, let the experiments continue.

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