T20 World Cup 2024 – New York, New Challenges as Sri Lanka embarks on a long journey

Will Hazaranga play?

Parveez Mahroop sees Sri Lanka’s best attacking options against South Africa

Dust blister. Not on the pitch but in the outfield. That’s the first thing you notice about cricket at the Nassau County International Cricket Ground outside New York City. The next thing you see is the ball being inserted into it. It doesn’t zip off like we’re used to watching cricket at such a high standard on TV these days. It’s a sandy outfield where fielders don’t line up to dive.

And then there’s the drop-in pitch. In a practice match between India and Bangladesh, two days before the stadium hosted its first World Cup match, the ball curled around and settled on the surface. Again, these are nothing but standard conditions. For unexplained reasons, the South African and Sri Lankan teams are going into the tournament without any practice on the actual ground.

This is why South Africa demanded at least one fielding session in the real outfield after finishing their nets at Contiago Park, another amenity outside New York City. Even during the India-Bangladesh match, their coach Rob Walter and bowling coach Eric Simons made it a point to visit the ground and check the conditions.

On the other hand, Sri Lanka will be visiting the ground for the first time when they come to the tournament. They canceled their Nets session at Contiac Park. Having seen the warm-up game on TV, they decide they want to know. It’s not as dramatic as it sounds because the conditions are similar to Sri Lanka: sticky pitch, heavy outfield. That’s what they’ve seen in other training sessions.

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„Firstly, we prepared well,” Sri Lanka captain Vanindu Hasaranga said. „We came to North Carolina two weeks early and we had practice sessions there. We played two practice games in Florida. And as a team, I think we prepared well. The conditions are similar to Sri Lanka. So, I think. As a team we prepared well. „

Vanindu Hazaranga believes his side are ready AFP/Getty Images

However, you may find some confusion in Sri Lanka. First, their flight to New York was delayed by seven hours. Then, unlike India and South Africa, they stay in downtown Brooklyn, making a trek to the ground. When asked about actually starting this World Cup early in the morning – to cater to the TV audience in India – Hazaranga did not fail to mention the trip to the stadium.

„No, if we play under lights, we have to prepare with the ground and everything under lights,” Hazaran said when asked if there was any need for an early start. „So the only concern is that we have to get to the stadium early. We have to arrive at 7.30am because we are so far from the ground. It takes an hour and a half to get to the stadium. That’s the only concern we have.”

Hazaranga is wrong. During the warm-up match, police closed the entrances to Eisenhower Park, where the stadium is located, making it difficult for almost everyone to get to the stadium. With the roads closed at 7.30am for all but team buses, everyone hopes for better coordination between the police and the ICC come match day.

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Sri Lankan spinners against South Africa

Morne Morkel and Farveez Mahroob look forward to the team’s opener

Then they travel often. Along with the Netherlands, Sri Lanka are one of only two teams to play all four first-round matches at four different venues. So they will be in a cycle of competition-travel-train-preferred train-competition till the first round.

Sometimes we don’t appreciate the little challenges that accumulate in these everyday things. For example, if you are asked to train at a different ground a day before a match, this is what happens: you load the cricket kits in the hotel on the team bus, then drop them at the training facility, then load them again and drive to your hotel, then you drop them off at the ground in the morning and load them again because you have to travel immediately, the same. You don’t have the luxury of playing another match at the venue.

South Africa have been very theoretical with the logistical challenges that are part of coming to a new country that is not used to hosting cricket, but they play three matches in New York. Even they hesitated to practice elsewhere. They don’t know why. Asked if they wanted to train at the venue, their captain Aidan Markram said: „It’s hard to say because I don’t know what. [training facility] has [at the venue of the match], because I didn’t go there. The facility is incredible to be honest, so we don’t mind training here.”

Siddharth Monga is a senior writer at ESPNcricinfo

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