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Heinrich Klaasen of Proteas plays a shot at Nassau County International Cricket Stadium in New York, the US, June 3 2024. Picture: ISURU SAMEERA/GALLO IMAGES
Heinrich Klaasen of Proteas plays a shot at Nassau County International Cricket Stadium in New York, the US, June 3 2024. Picture: ISURU SAMEERA/GALLO IMAGES

After the run deluge in the Indian Premier League (IPL), it’s time for batters to “suck it up a bit,” said Proteas power hitter Heinrich Klaasen.

The excitement about hosting T20 World Cup matches in New York is quickly being replaced by criticism of the pitch and outfield at the temporary Nassau County International Stadium, which is situated in Long Island.

In the opening two matches at the stadium, both teams that batted first were dismissed for less than 100.

Besides hoping the remaining fixtures at the venue would provide more even contests, Klaasen seemed unfazed by the furore the pitches have generated.

“It’s about getting the balance right. No-one complained during the IPL about 270, playing 270, and now the bowlers are getting conditions more in their favour. As batters, we need to suck it up, and hopefully we get a better wicket in the next game,” said Klaasen.

Trying to sell the game in the States is great… love it… but for players to have to play on this substandard surface in New York is unacceptable.

From former Proteas coach Mickey Arthur, describing the surfaces as “very poor” to former England captain Michael Vaughan saying it was “shocking” very little praise has been directed the way of the drop-in pitches which were prepared in Adelaide and then shipped to New York, via Miami.

“Trying to sell the game in the States is great… love it… but for players to have to play on this substandard surface in New York is unacceptable. You work so hard to make it to the WC then have to play on this,” Vaughan tweeted during Wednesday’s Ireland-India match.

The Irish were bowled out for 96, with some of their batters copping painful blows to the body along the way.

On Monday, in the first official match there, SA dismissed Sri Lanka for just 77, with variable bounce a feature of that match.

“I think the wicket was a little bit too favourable to the bowlers, but that is part of the game. Sometimes you get wickets that are too flat,” said Klaasen.

“It’s not always going to be a 200-run wicket, so batters also need to understand they need to play a bit smarter. As long as the playing field becomes a little more even, we don't mind if there is something in it for the bowlers, because that will make for good, entertaining cricket.

“It might not be a kind of wicket on which we can ‘tee off’ and hit boundaries. We need to make peace with that and play some clever cricket.”

The venue took five months to build and has four centre strips. A total of 10 were shipped to the US from Australia, where drop-in pitches have increasingly become the norm, being used in Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide. The remaining six strips are used at the training facility at Cantiague Park, which is a 20-minute walk from the stadium.

Besides the pitches, the outfield is poor too, with well struck balls barely breaching the inner-ring.

“We’ll have to reformulate our gameplan, we are experienced in these types of conditions, so we must just go back into the memory bank and take some responsibility,” said Klaasen.

The Proteas’ next match is there on Saturday against the Netherlands, another 10.30am local time start, which adds even more of a challenge for the batters and makes the toss appear increasingly crucial.

“The toss is not something which is in your control. [The pitch] will do a bit more in the morning. But it does not get heaps better, it is still a tricky wicket [if you bat second)].”

Having visited Yankee Stadium earlier this week to watch a game at that iconic venue, perhaps baseball, might offer a lesson for cricket — eliminate pitches entirely.

“It was an interesting experience, it’s completely different to what we do, but I think cricket is more entertaining than baseball to be fair,” Klaasen remarked.

As for clearing the fences at Yankee Stadium, Klaasen, one of the biggest hitters in the tournament said: “We worked out that it was about a 120m hit, so it’s quite a big hit, but as batters we reckon we can give it go. We’ll find a batting cage somewhere and see.”

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