The monster pitch that ate cricket in New York

The ICC called the New York pitch a beautiful monster. They were half right. 

The monster pitch that ate cricket in New York
As of the Australia vs Oman game

Eddo Brandes was a bowler from Zimbabwe who did so well in a World Cup match that his team ended with Test status. None of that is not true. But, the other side of that oft-told story is that Brandes was bowling on a simply terrible surface. Australia was co-hosting the World Cup with New Zealand, and for some of the smaller matches, they thought it would be fine to grow the game and share the love. So regional cities got some matches, and sadly, the Albury surface was terrible.

Dave Houghton, Zimbabwe’s star batter from the previous World Cups made the equal highest score of 29, from 74 balls. ODI cricket was slower back then, but not like this. The man who also joined him on that total was England’s Alec Stewart, who faced 96 balls. 

In truth, that wicket was simply not right for international cricket. It was a mistake, that ended with us getting a new Test nation in what was still largely an amateur sport at the time. 

Cricket is now a multi-billion dollar enterprise, and these matches are not being played in regional centres as a sign of good faith. The World Cup is in New York to grow the game. In a few days, it will host one of the most watched sporting events in the world. The pitch it is on is so bad Eddo Brandes’ chickens wouldn’t graze on it. 

The ICC called the New York pitch a beautiful monster. They were half right. 

This is terrifying if you are a batter. All these balls are landing in the same spot. So a top class player is expecting them to do roughly the same thing. But the pink ones are flying up at their heads, and the blue ones at their knee. You cannot prepare for this kind of wicket, it’s just random. One bat can keep low and another jump up; it’s dangerous. 

Picture Credits - Sky Sports

Now, batters sometimes have to handle wickets like this. Curating pitches is not an exact science. Often, the conditions dictate what you make, and sometimes, they try to fix the issues and make it work. Sometimes the wickets start fine, but they start to play up over five days.

But this is happening in a World Cup match. Rohit Sharma is one of the most famous athletes in the world, and he just had to retire hurt from a game because a ball struck him that simply shouldn’t have. No professional player should be facing 90 miles per hour bowling on this wicket. 

Picture Credits - ESPNcricinfo commentary

Not that you just need to look at the pace bowling. In T20, Dasun Shanaka's occasional medium pace goes at nearly nine runs an over. The South Africans, who were chasing 77 runs, decided to make Shanaka look like Malcolm Marshall.  

His figures alone do not suggest a pitch is bad. As of the 6th of June, the Nassau County monster has a bowling average of 14 and a strike rate of less than a run a ball from the bat. I mean, a lot less. And you can see there are two other pitches giving plenty of wickets, and this is still well under those. 

As of the Australia vs Oman game

How many fours have been hit? I was shocked to see that any have been hit from the bat. I honestly thought most of them would be from bowling five wides. But you can see how few. 

That is not just the pitch at all because this ground also has the worst outfield. So people are hitting sixes, because they have no other choice. It really is nearly six or out. And it is mostly out.  

Also, you might be seeing Guyana here and thinking, well, isn’t it a bad wicket? It certainly is if you want runs. Guyana has often been one of the slowest scoring ground in the world. However, it is safe. The balls are predictably low, and the batters have to handle that. Rohit Sharma is only retiring hurt there if a ball hits his toe from an inside edge. 

As of the Australia vs Oman game

Compare that with the one in New York. When India were bowling in the powerplay, Arshdeep Singh and Mohammed Siraj gathered steep bounce that reached wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant’s head height, but then had balls roll along the ground. One ball from Arshdeep seemed to bounce three times. 

This ball from Dasun Shanaka shows it best. It stops in the surface, seams back widely and then also still manages to keep low. And just a reminder, this is a part time medium pacer, not Waqar Younis. 

Picture Credits - ESPNcricinfo commentary

You can see in Mark Adair’s wicket of Virat Kohli that the ball stops in the wicket a little bit. We have also seen two caught and bowleds from the few overs of spin as well, backing that up. 

Remember, a few players got hit in the India Ireland match, but I think this is the most dangerous one. There are no pitches that are easy to face Bumrah on, but this is something else. Harry Tector gets a ball that just rises massively on him, and it smashes into his hand and head. This could have injured him in two seperate ways. 

Picture Credits - ESPNcricinfo commentary

So I have shown this is not a good pitch, but why. 

Well, we are lucky enough that all the people involved in this wicket and ground spoke to Nagraj Gollapudi about the entire thing. It’s a really good article that has not aged well for the people in it. But let me try and explain the entire thing.

The World Cup is co-hosted by these two countries. But as we can kind of tell, it's really hosted by the West Indies. The West Indies, we know, are going to have proper professional wickets. They were using all these different grounds down here. Now, are they fast scoring great T20 wickets? Well, no, because we've all watched the CPL, right? But they are professional wickets that you can play T20 matches on with low scoring results occasionally happening.

That is because the West Indies Cricket Board, for all of its issues, knows how to put a pitch together. Their wickets have always been wildly different from island to island or country to country. Basically, they can put a wicket together and have been putting test wickets together at the test level for almost 100 years now. So that means that all of these wickets, for all their individual problems and everything else, basically are going to be fine in this World Cup as long as you like low scoring games.

But the problem was, this bit. I've long said that USA cricket is the third rail of cricket. And essentially what I mean by that is, so many people touch it, and then it burns them. And then it burns them more, and it continues to burn them for a long period of time.

For instance, the CPL once tried to get involved with cricket in Florida. The problem with that is that the Florida wickets aren't particularly great. The local crowds, especially the expats that they expected, didn't really go. In fact, there have been a few international games at Florida before it's never really worked. But again, it is a cricket pitch that is safe to use at the international level. It's fine without being great. It's no worse than, say, Guyana, which is one of the most turgid surfaces on Earth.

I love Guyana, and I love the cricket there, but let's be honest, it's completely different to almost anywhere else in the world. So you can have a wicket like one of these two and be absolutely fine. You can still play cricket there. You might not get as many sixes as you want, or, in some cases, you might not get the crowd that you always want from Florida. But you can play cricket in Florida without a problem, and they've been doing that for quite a while now.

Then we have the MLC, which of course is the latest major franchise league. In fact, I think it's just been called a major franchise league. Or at least now we're supposed to consider it a real franchise league, whereas before it wasn't really anything at all, right?

But the MLC had a problem as well, because they didn't have access to many wickets. So they went and found a baseball stadium in Texas, which was called AirHogs. I was really disappointed to find out that that stadium wasn't actually named after flying pigs and instead was something to do with the armed forces.

Because of the problems with travel, the MLC just decided in their first season that Dallas was their best bet, right? They put all their eggs into that stadium and you can see it's a lovely looking stadium. There are a lot of expats in Texas.

But the MLC isn't the only one here, because there is also another MLC (which is Minor League Cricket). And Minor League Cricket already had a ground that was working for it as well, called Morrisville.

Now if you haven't heard of Morrisville, that's because there's no reason to have heard of it unless you follow Minor County Cricket or if you're a big American cricket fan. But from a Minor League standpoint, Morrisville was perfect. It's in the middle of probably one of the most flourishing cricket communities in the United States. 

Essentially, there are a bunch of huge universities around Morrisville. The people are willing to travel to the center to come and watch cricket. They have a good little surface, almost like a New Zealand ground. Again, it looks like a decent surface.

So when the ICC were deciding on what grounds to use in the USA, of course Dallas made a lot of sense. But Morrisville, not so much, right? It's kind of in the middle of nowhere. Also, it's not a major city. So, the ICC decided that they would need a major city. We're talking America here, so they went to the two most obvious ones. Los Angeles was one that they looked at, but Los Angeles didn't quite work the way that they wanted it to.

Maybe after the Olympics there might be something different going on, but they couldn't make Los Angeles work. Of course, you would go to New York. In fact, cricket in New York has a pretty good history as well. It's not like you're just picking it because it's a major city, although that's exactly why they were picking it.

But there have been famous cricket games in New York before. Back when cricket was still flourishing in America, New York was certainly one of the places it was doing well.

The issue with New York is that there are no cricket stadiums like in Dallas, Morrisville, and our old friend Florida. So, the ICC had to make a cricket ground from scratch.

Now if they had spent years and years preparing for this, I am sure that the pitch in New York would have been absolutely fantastic. But unfortunately, they didn't have that much time.  So they had to find some land, which of course is hard to do in New York.

So they ended up in Nassau County. And they had to build that ground from scratch. The problem was that it didn't really have the facilities available. It didn't exist before everything had to be built up. And this idea really comes in September last year and doesn't start to be activated until January and February, which means the ICC had six months to build a ground in New York.

Remember, some of these grounds are like probably 50 to 100, maybe even older than that. And we still have wickets like Guyana and Barbados that are low and turgid and not the most exciting cricket. It's not particularly easy to come up with a great cricket pitch.

The MCG, except Lords, was the most famous ground in the world for a very long time. Yet, the MCG had a terrible pitch.

But the MCG had something else. It had drop-in wickets. And one of the reasons that the MCG needed drop in wickets was because Aussie rules football was played there, and the square would just be stood on over and over again. It meant that they thought there was an impact on the square when they were trying to bring it back together, and they were probably right with that.

Drop-in wickets have a bad reputation. But as we've seen in Dubai, where they have lots of different kinds of drop-in wickets for training, for matches, all sorts of situations, they can quite work.

And the MCG pitch is now much better than it used to be in the old days. Right across Australia, drop-in pitch technology is quite common, and we see it in other countries as well. They're not perfect wickets, and they certainly have their own issues, but they are genuinely pretty flat and pretty safe, and they work very well as an international cricket ground.

One of the places that also needed drop-in wickets, of course, was Adelaide. So much so, that they have become experts in the craft. When the ICC needed someone to create this drop in wicket in New York, it went to Adelaide. A bunch of strips, not just the match strip, by the way. You also have to think about the training facilities.

So a bunch of different strips were made, and then they were sent all the way over to, actually they weren't, they were sent to Florida. And the reason these drop in wickets weren't sent to New York straight away is it was winter in New York. So they couldn't actually grow them. They needed the better climate of Florida to be able to help with the pitches. That's kind of the first red flag, right?

Because it's not that pitches can't grow in cold conditions. We have seen that in England throughout the history of mankind. But the fact that they didn't have enough time to actually embed these wickets in during the summer for New York meant that they had to go to Florida to be able to put in.

I'm not an expert in drop-in wickets. That could be completely fine. But it does show you that there was some serious issues with the general planning, and let's be honest, the last minute nature of what they were doing.

Now this was all looked after by the curator of the Adelaide Oval, right? And we know that's a good wicket, and a consistently good wicket. In fact, it's one of the best quality wickets in the world. And good quality was really important. So good quality and Adelaide Oval come together

But what happens when you have a wicket in Adelaide Oval that goes to Florida and then comes up to New York? But there were other issues with the land that they got. It was essentially a bit of land that was quite often used as a car park. It was not a smooth professional spawning facility.

This was unlike Dallas, where they had complete access to it because it used to be a baseball stadium. They took the baseball stadium away and then they could recreate a cricket stadium right there.

This was an occasional car park. and just by watching the games of recent times, it is worth remembering that it does look a little bit like there is an uneven surface out there. Has that got anything to do with the car park? I have no idea at all, because I know very little about all this. And having looked at the uneven surface, is there a possibility that the car park may have played a part? I don't know, but I have no idea at all. All I know is, it was a car park, right? And then it became a cricket ground, which has to host the biggest cricket game in the world.

But there's a really interesting thing when you listen to all the different people who were involved with this. And there was quite a few people from the ICC, there's obviously people from Adelaide, there are also people from the USA. Everyone was talking about it, but one of the lines that was used was that this was going to be their beautiful monster.

They knew that they were creating something. They knew they didn't have a lot of time, but they thought they could pull it off. That they wouldn't need to go to Morrisville. That Los Angeles could be completely forgotten about.

And that they could create a wicket that at least wouldn't look terrible when compared to these other grounds that already existed. Like the one in Dallas that was really good.

Remember, the opening game was in Dallas. That was a good cricket wicket. it was safe. It had consistent bounce. It helped the bowlers at some stages. It helped the batters at other points. There were plenty of runs to be scored. A good time was had by all.

Compare that to New York. Everything that we have seen at the moment has suggested to us that this is not a good cricket wicket.

I don't always think that Guyana is the best cricket wicket out there either. But the problem and the difference between Guyana And New York is the safety. I don't think the New York wicket is particularly safe for international cricketers. It would be fine if you, me and our friends were out playing in a village game or a park game, or even maybe a league game. It wouldn't be a good wicket even then, but it would be fine.

However, you have 90 mile an hour bowlers coming in on this wicket. You have people with slingy actions. You have world class spinners, and the ball is not bouncing the way it should. Sometimes it goes low. Sometimes it goes high, and the batters have no clue on what that is.

On top of this, it seems like four different wickets at one time. I said, I don't mind drop-in wickets compared to most people, but this feels like four different kinds of wickets. at some stages, it feels like the ball is flying through with good pace and carry.

And you think to yourself, wow. That is incredible. That's a great wicket. Then the next ball bounces up a little bit like a tennis ball. And that's when it becomes a monster. Then occasionally the ball keeps low. Hello, Guyana, our old friend.

And that doesn't even include the fact that sometimes it seems violently again, that's not a bad quality. It's just that when you have a situation with the ball carrying really well, and then carrying really poorly, and then veering sideways, and then popping up, you end up here.

You end up with a monster. The ICC have created a monster of a wicket. There is no other way of looking at this. This is one of the worst professional wickets we have ever seen.

So clearly that became a mess. But let’s just look at this from a timeline.

  • In 2021, the ICC give the World Cup to the USA.
  • It takes them almost two years to decide on how they will handle the makeshift wicket and then they contact a company to do that for them.
  • Two years after the hosts were decided on, they work out which ground they want.
  • Then they ship the pitches to Florida at the end of last year, work starts on the site in Jnaryar of Nassau County, but construction begins in February.
  • In April, the pitches finally arrive in New York, and then in June the match is played. 

This means that nothing was done from November 2021 to September 2023. That is a lot of time they could have spent getting this altogether, and instead like any great student they waited till the last moment and tried to pull it off. 

And they did that on a ground that did not have drainage or irrigation that was used for parking. I mean, what on earth is going on here. 

That means their aim to produce good quality wickets was risky from the start. They haven’t even produced a bad wicket, but the worst kind, unsafe. 

The ICC wouldn’t use that word if someone else had done this, they have a ratings system for wickets that is – very good, good, average, below average, satisfactory, unsatisfactory and unfit. This is clearly one of the last two, I would go with unfit, they might go with unsatisfactory. 

But wait, what else does it say? I see here if a pitch is either of those two things then the board are required to explain why the wicket was substandard and that sanctions may be applied for such a wicket. 

Can the ICC sanction themselves for their own wicket? And If they fine themselves, where does the money go?

I don’t know how to answer this. But I know that something has gone awfully wrong here. Because this wicket is terrible, and no matter what term you want to use for it, no international players should be facing 90, or even 75MPH bowling on a pitch like this. 

The ball from Josh Little to Rohit Sharma really shows the true issue with this pitch. This is not a very short delivery, yet it rises so high that it ends hits one of the best players of bad pitches in the world on the shoulder. He has to go off retired hurt. He and Harry Tector will hopefully be fine. No one should be playing on this wicket any more, yet it has six more matches scheduled. 

And also cricket’s biggest game, India versus Pakistan. Hundreds of millions of people will take an interest in this match. It could have been played of the good pitch of Dallas, or in the Caribbean, but instead they chose to put their crown jewel in the mouth of their beautiful monster. 

I can’t tell you what will happen in any of the games to come. But we have put a billion dollar event on a carpark with the most well travelled pitches in cricket. And as they say in Nagraj’s article, you can’t play on bad wickets. 

Like many players in this tournament, the ICC took a massive swing, and failed to make any connection at all. If they have done anything at all to the casual US fans they were trying to woo, it’s to convince them that a sport without the need for the ball to bounce is the better option. 

At the moment, their beautiful monster looks like the creature that ate cricket in New York City.