Sports

    Spotlight on New York pitch as India take on Pakistan

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    The Hawk
    June8/ 2024
    Last Updated:

    As the T20 World Cup match between India and Pakistan approaches, India looks to exploit Pakistan's unfamiliarity with the tricky conditions at Nassau County International Cricket Stadium.

    Nassau County cricket stadium

    New York: A confident and well-adjusted India would look to capitalise on an unpredictable Pakistan's vulnerable state and lack of familiarity with the tricky conditions here when the traditional rivals lock horns in their eagerly-awaited T20 World Cup clash on Sunday.

    The marquee game, which is expected to draw the biggest crowd of the tournament so far, will be held at the newly constructed 34,000-seater Nassau County International Cricket Stadium at the Eisenhower Park on the outskirts of the city.

    Heading into this high-profile contest, the 22-yard pitch remains a major talking point, having already faced significant criticism for its unpredictability, which the ICC has officially acknowledged.

    In the six innings of the three matches hosted at the stadium so far, teams have surpassed the 100-run mark only twice. Some former players have wondered aloud whether the low-scoring conditions would be of any help in selling cricket to the American market through the showpiece.

    The four drop-in pitches at the venue, laid in April under the supervision of Adelaide Oval groundsman Damian Hough, are yet to settle down properly.

    The uneven bounce of the surface has also raised safety concerns for the batters, especially after Indian skipper Rohit Sharma was hit on his shoulder, forcing him to stop batting during the tournament-opener against Ireland on June 5.

    "I don't know what to expect from the pitch to be honest. We will prepare as if the conditions are going to be like this (for Pakistan game). This is going to be a kind of game where all XI of us will need to contribute," Rohit had said after the game against Ireland.

    A day after India's game, the ICC had to release a statement, addressing the growing concerns surrounding the pitches prepared for the New York-leg of this T20 World Cup.

    "The ICC recognise that the pitches used so far at the Nassau County International Cricket Stadium have not played as consistently as we would have all wanted," the statement read.

    The Pakistan team, however, is yet to acclimatise to the conditions at Nassau Stadium.

    They arrived in New York on Thursday night following their shocking defeat to tournament debutants USA and took the next day off.

    As a result, Babar Azam and his squad have had limited time to adjust to these challenging conditions, which could be a disadvantage heading into this crucial encounter.

    And a defeat against India could significantly complicate their qualification prospects.

    Against Ireland, the Indian think-tank left out left-arm wrist-spinner Kuldeep Yadav from the playing XI and opted for an extra specialist fast bowler.

    On Sunday, the strategy is expected to remain the same, particularly as the match is expected to be played on an unused centre turf. South Africa and Netherlands are playing a game at the Nassau stadium on June 8 but on a different track.

    However, given Kuldeep's recent form and his favourable match-ups against Pakistani batters, especially Babar, the team management might consider including him.

    If so, one out of Axar Patel or Ravindra Jadeja may have to sit out. The batting is more or less settled with Rohit and Virat Kohli expected to continue as openers and Rishabh Pant taking the No.3 slot.

    Pakistan, on the other hand, would be hoping to get their act together after the opening shock.

    Their legendary unpredictability was on full display against the USA, who pipped them in the Super Over for a memorable win.

    Babar blamed the loss primarily on bowlers but what he cannot afford to overlook is the underwhelming performance of the team's batters, including him.

    The captain consumed 43 deliveries for his 44, which is nowhere close to being a decent strike rate in the shortest format. He would be hoping to do better.

    And with conditions helpful for seamers as pointed out by India pace spearhead Jasprit Bumrah after the Ireland game, it won't be a surprise if the lethal version of Pakistan's bowling attack led by Shaheen Afridi decides to show up on Sunday and put the team's campaign back on track.

    Stringent Security Measures - Following an ISIS terror threat received at the start of the tournament, stringent security measures have been enforced by local authorities to ensure the safe conduct of this high-profile contest.

    Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder, in recent media interactions, emphasised on the extensive arrangements, likening them to presidential-level security.

    "The scale and magnitude of the security for this India-Pakistan match will be more compared to when we hosted the USA President Barack Obama some years ago," Ryder said.

    He also confirmed the involvement of officers from Nassau County Police, Suffolk County, New York State, as well as agencies including the FBI, Homeland Security Investigations, and US Customs and Border Protection in the comprehensive security arrangements for the game.

    Squads:

    India: Rohit Sharma (c), Hardik Pandya, Yashasvi Jaiswal, Virat Kohli, Suryakumar Yadav, Rishabh Pant, Sanju Samson, Shivam Dube, Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Arshdeep Singh, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj.

    Pakistan squad: Babar Azam (c), Abrar Ahmed, Azam Khan, Fakhar Zaman, Haris Rauf, Iftikhar Ahmed, Imad Wasim, Mohammad Abbas Afridi, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Rizwan, Naseem Shah, Saim Ayub, Shadab Khan, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Usman Khan

    Match starts: 8pm IST.

    —PTI