USA news October 5, 2012

Artificial pitches planned for USA T20

27

The organisers behind a professional Twenty20 league in the USA, which is targeted to be launched next summer, are planning to stage matches on artificial wickets.

Currently the only ICC-approved ODI standard natural turf wicket in the United States is the Central Broward Regional Park in Lauderhill, Florida. According to Cricket Holdings America chief executive Neil Maxwell, using artificial pitches will open the door to play matches in a number of cities and markets beyond south Florida.

"I think one of the fundamental areas that has held people back historically is the concept of playing cricket on turf pitches," Maxwell told ESPNcricinfo. "I think from our perspective, we've got far greater flexibility because we're going to play on artificial surfaces predominantly for the Twenty20 game and that gives us a broader spectrum of potential venues and sites that we can use."

With the lack of cricketing infrastructure in the United States, spending money to construct new turf wicket stadiums would require significant investment in an unproven market. The league's first season is tentatively set to take place over three to four weeks in June and July of 2013 and the cost to maintain a turf facility if left unused for 11 months could also prove to be expensive and inefficient. Maxwell says artificial pitches are a better option to get the league underway.

"The biggest hurdle to try and stage major cricket matches is the cost and ongoing maintenance of turf pitches," Maxwell said. "For the Twenty20 product where really you're coming to see the ball struck to the boundary as often as possible, the bowlers are given some encouragement, but the main thing is going to be regular bounce and give them player safety and we think that's going to be the best solution for it. The advancement in technology of these things is phenomenal, even in the last five years."

In June, West Indies made their highest score in Twenty20 Internationals when they posted 209 for 2 against New Zealand on a placid wicket in Florida. The innings featured explosive shot-making from Chris Gayle and Kieron Pollard, the kind that may be appealing to the casual American sports fan as well as the hardcore cricket fan. However, there are still lingering memories in Lauderhill of the dreadful pitch produced in 2010 which resulted in first innings totals of 120 for 7 and 81 all out when Sri Lanka took on New Zealand. Maxwell says it isn't worth the risk to invest in turf pitches because if they aren't prepared and maintained properly, it could have a dramatically negative effect on the on-field product.

"I think cricket needs to have a look at itself," Maxwell said. "We've got a 200-year-old product that's based around something 200 years ago. A lot of major sports have moved to artificial surfaces. I think the beauty of the United States is that we're starting with a blank canvas pretty much in respect to cricket history and tradition. Yes, we acknowledge the first internationals in 1844, but when you're looking at a contemporary product of Twenty20 cricket we're starting with a blank canvas. We have a reasonably well-educated core market, but it's a small market. What we want to do is broaden this game to mainstream America as quickly as possible.

"We can either approach that from a traditionalist's point of view and invest millions of dollars into turf pitches and then try and guarantee that they're going to be at the appropriate level for every game. Or we can go with a product that will allow the game to expand and develop within the country quickly because you'll be able to provide pitches at a fraction of the cost to the market that might want to choose to play cricket. I think artificial pitches will become the norm for Twenty20 cricket in 10-15 years."

Reports have suggested that Cricket Holdings America is looking to have at least two of the league's original six franchises to be based in New York and San Francisco. With sizeable South Asian and West Indian immigrant populations to tap into, those communities will be key to having good attendance figures at matches but Maxwell hopes to draw in other spectators by creating a vibrant atmosphere inside the stadium beyond the action out in the middle.

"This is very much about entertainment," Maxwell said. "This is about finding a way to appeal to mainstream America which might not be specifically through the game of cricket but through an entertainment product that will be exciting to a broad market segment."

Peter Della Penna is a journalist based in New Jersey

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • roboh on October 7, 2012, 22:36 GMT

    I see artificial pitches as a necessary evil in getting the T20 league off the ground. The cost of establishing turf pitches in decent venues would be crippling. Hopefully, if the league survives a few years, turf pitches can start to be introduced.

  • DavidNorman99 on October 6, 2012, 17:28 GMT

    As someone who plays club cricket on an artificial wicket, the problems with it have nothing to do with how it plays for batting. Because the pitch is artificial, you cannot wear spikes on it. If you did, you would tear and ruin it when you slid on it (e.g. as your feet land when bowling). If they made it strong enough that it doesn't tear if you wear spikes, you would instead tear your ankle ligaments if you landed wrongly and your caught. And if your spikes couldn't catch on it, it would be too slippery to bowl on. Because you can't wear spikes when bowling, if the outfield is damp, you have problems with sliding when fielding, which is likely to cause leg/groin injuries as your feet go from under you. Which leaves the only other option of changing boots at the start/end of every bowling spell (and not running too hard around the outfield when fielding during your spell). It won't replace turf wickets until they make an artificial pitch which can be torn and can then repair itself.

  • SnowSnake on October 6, 2012, 16:53 GMT

    Cricket is OK game, but given a choice between NFL, NBA, NHL and cricket; I would never watch cricket. I don't consider it professional game to be accepted in the USA. With or without technology, LBW decisions will always remain controversial. For that reason alone, I will never care too much for cricket. It is just not meant for America. Besides, any sport controlled by non-American body is not acceptable for Americans. Americans want total control of both power and revenues.

  • on October 6, 2012, 5:23 GMT

    A twenty20 cricket league can easily work in the US if it's done correctly (and proper investments are made). We already have a big enough base of hardcore fans and contribute the 2nd most TV revenues to ICC (only India does better). If even a small percent of the 300 million Americans become casual cricket fans over time (which can be accomplished by putting the games on free/cable TV regularly), this nation will be a force to recon with in the cricketing world.

  • silly_mid_on on October 6, 2012, 5:15 GMT

    All cricket should be played on artificial surfaces, from junior games right up to test matches on the same surface around the world. Surely a pitch could be built that replicates a perfect cricket surface, and remains fair to everyone throughout the game. The continuing use of turf pitches is the great inconsistency of cricket. Get rid of them. Why do you think India are good at home but hopeless in Australia? Why does the team batting first in an Adelaide test score 600 and the team batting last scores 120?

  • smudgeon on October 6, 2012, 5:04 GMT

    timmyj, I think to a certain degree, they will be relying on expat south-Asian and West Indian crowds to form the bulk of the crowds. I'm sure a well-timed marketing campaign emphasising the slam-bang aspects of T20 will be their best bet to interest cricket-novices.

  • on October 6, 2012, 4:48 GMT

    People here in USA does not like to compete at international level. They prefer college boys playing American Football more that also at state level. I don't think that Americans will gonna like cricket over their style of Football.

  • on October 6, 2012, 3:02 GMT

    Can international matches be played on artificial pitches ?

  • timmyj on October 6, 2012, 2:26 GMT

    Everyone knew from start CHA would have to go with artificial pitches. This, however, is a minor issure. What grounds are they using? And then there's the only question that matters: how do you get Americans out to the games, whatever the pitch is, and how are they going to understand what they're watching. I want answers to these questions.

  • on October 6, 2012, 1:32 GMT

    Ok so what they are saying is that they are not sure if it will be financially beneficial to maintain a cricket pitch that will only be used for two months out of the year. They want to test the market out first to see if it will become financially feasible for the sport. I think that after a few seasons and once the sponsors step in we should hopefully see this change. Having a turf pitch is part of the game.They have only one turf pitch that the ICC has approved for T20 games and we know that pitch hasn't held up well in the past either. Going forward they should look at someone like Les Burdett one of the worlds best ground curators to help them set up and maintain the new pitches. He's experience of 41years is next to none. But once again we see the ignorance of America trying to change things to suit their needs. I think its great for the sport that we branch out into the U.S market but to change it to suit them is something that I will not approve of.

  • roboh on October 7, 2012, 22:36 GMT

    I see artificial pitches as a necessary evil in getting the T20 league off the ground. The cost of establishing turf pitches in decent venues would be crippling. Hopefully, if the league survives a few years, turf pitches can start to be introduced.

  • DavidNorman99 on October 6, 2012, 17:28 GMT

    As someone who plays club cricket on an artificial wicket, the problems with it have nothing to do with how it plays for batting. Because the pitch is artificial, you cannot wear spikes on it. If you did, you would tear and ruin it when you slid on it (e.g. as your feet land when bowling). If they made it strong enough that it doesn't tear if you wear spikes, you would instead tear your ankle ligaments if you landed wrongly and your caught. And if your spikes couldn't catch on it, it would be too slippery to bowl on. Because you can't wear spikes when bowling, if the outfield is damp, you have problems with sliding when fielding, which is likely to cause leg/groin injuries as your feet go from under you. Which leaves the only other option of changing boots at the start/end of every bowling spell (and not running too hard around the outfield when fielding during your spell). It won't replace turf wickets until they make an artificial pitch which can be torn and can then repair itself.

  • SnowSnake on October 6, 2012, 16:53 GMT

    Cricket is OK game, but given a choice between NFL, NBA, NHL and cricket; I would never watch cricket. I don't consider it professional game to be accepted in the USA. With or without technology, LBW decisions will always remain controversial. For that reason alone, I will never care too much for cricket. It is just not meant for America. Besides, any sport controlled by non-American body is not acceptable for Americans. Americans want total control of both power and revenues.

  • on October 6, 2012, 5:23 GMT

    A twenty20 cricket league can easily work in the US if it's done correctly (and proper investments are made). We already have a big enough base of hardcore fans and contribute the 2nd most TV revenues to ICC (only India does better). If even a small percent of the 300 million Americans become casual cricket fans over time (which can be accomplished by putting the games on free/cable TV regularly), this nation will be a force to recon with in the cricketing world.

  • silly_mid_on on October 6, 2012, 5:15 GMT

    All cricket should be played on artificial surfaces, from junior games right up to test matches on the same surface around the world. Surely a pitch could be built that replicates a perfect cricket surface, and remains fair to everyone throughout the game. The continuing use of turf pitches is the great inconsistency of cricket. Get rid of them. Why do you think India are good at home but hopeless in Australia? Why does the team batting first in an Adelaide test score 600 and the team batting last scores 120?

  • smudgeon on October 6, 2012, 5:04 GMT

    timmyj, I think to a certain degree, they will be relying on expat south-Asian and West Indian crowds to form the bulk of the crowds. I'm sure a well-timed marketing campaign emphasising the slam-bang aspects of T20 will be their best bet to interest cricket-novices.

  • on October 6, 2012, 4:48 GMT

    People here in USA does not like to compete at international level. They prefer college boys playing American Football more that also at state level. I don't think that Americans will gonna like cricket over their style of Football.

  • on October 6, 2012, 3:02 GMT

    Can international matches be played on artificial pitches ?

  • timmyj on October 6, 2012, 2:26 GMT

    Everyone knew from start CHA would have to go with artificial pitches. This, however, is a minor issure. What grounds are they using? And then there's the only question that matters: how do you get Americans out to the games, whatever the pitch is, and how are they going to understand what they're watching. I want answers to these questions.

  • on October 6, 2012, 1:32 GMT

    Ok so what they are saying is that they are not sure if it will be financially beneficial to maintain a cricket pitch that will only be used for two months out of the year. They want to test the market out first to see if it will become financially feasible for the sport. I think that after a few seasons and once the sponsors step in we should hopefully see this change. Having a turf pitch is part of the game.They have only one turf pitch that the ICC has approved for T20 games and we know that pitch hasn't held up well in the past either. Going forward they should look at someone like Les Burdett one of the worlds best ground curators to help them set up and maintain the new pitches. He's experience of 41years is next to none. But once again we see the ignorance of America trying to change things to suit their needs. I think its great for the sport that we branch out into the U.S market but to change it to suit them is something that I will not approve of.

  • on October 6, 2012, 1:14 GMT

    Great news ...this was one news i was waiting all over.....cricket in mainsttream US television ..Finals live in espn2.....thank you espn.I LOVE YOU guys...

  • on October 6, 2012, 0:57 GMT

    ICC must do whatever they can to bring cricket in USA, no matter artificial turf , indoor ground , ball color, flexible rules etc etc . ICC just has to do proper marketing too . There are WC T20 is going on , but I don't see a single line news in any kind of media. I have one more suggestion to ICC . Professional cricketers should not be allowed in T20 cricket , it makes all teams balanced including associates countries.

  • Cpt.Meanster on October 6, 2012, 0:38 GMT

    Cricket will NEVER take off in the USA. Why ? because the 'real' Americans don't care ! As long as expats keep playing and represent cricket in the USA, there is no hope for the sport. It's the same here in Canada. A handful of immigrants from India, Pakistan, SL, and the Caribbean make up the Canadian national team. What's the use ? Mainstream Canadians don't even know such a sport exists. Unless we get the ORIGINAL people to play cricket, the sport will never take off and blossom. There is no use of building all these infrastructure unless the association have 1 prime goal - to fundamentally develop cricket in North America at the grass roots level. Until that happens, we can have all the hit n giggle stuff to entertain the expats.

  • on October 6, 2012, 0:13 GMT

    I think, for the first season, they should play in tennis courts - consistent bounce and lots of sixes.

  • on October 5, 2012, 21:20 GMT

    Finally, cricket is being conceived in the US.

    By this time next year, there should be couple of more cricket fields to host international matches.

    It would be very financially beneficial to cricket in general as US market has some strong companies and organisations in terms of sponsorship.

    A good sign for ODI and T20 format and it would be a HUGE hit in the US due to dense cricket support in the country.

  • avmd on October 5, 2012, 20:23 GMT

    US is a different cricket market, we have to be creative to make its success. Traditional wickets and stadium and the maintenance is impossible here. Artificial pitches are the only possible way, at least to start with. If organizers were bake to attract some big names in cricket to play here, it won;t be difficult to fill up the stadium in bigger centers like NY/NJ, FL, CA, Chicago. Good luck.

  • Jack's Lions on October 5, 2012, 20:11 GMT

    The ICC Twenty 20 Final is on ESPN2 this Sunday at 1 PM EDT. ( I think that is a tape delay, though). I am new to the sport and find it very entertaining, but I will watch it live.

  • naudurivsm on October 5, 2012, 19:09 GMT

    First of why is why people are trying Cricket in USA. They DO NOT want cricket at all. They even do support it by any means. It is shame they even do not telecast on the TV ( via ESPN or so) at the least the World cup matches. I think they are scared if cricket becomes popular their other sport industries will be locked down. It is even shameful that they have no respect for international sports etc. Anyone saw the Olympics coverage. it was just pathetic. Cicket is NO NO in USA. and it is better if we stay away.

  • priyanks11 on October 5, 2012, 19:08 GMT

    I cannot wait for international cricket to come here! i had gone for a baseball game and i think cricket is far more entertaining and i think americans will love this game !

  • py0alb on October 5, 2012, 18:53 GMT

    Seriously, how hard is it to lay a half decent square? Amateur clubs all over the UK do it for a fraction of the cost of an artificial pitch.

    Even the lowliest village clubs would be ashamed to have to play on a artificial pitch.

  • WTEH on October 5, 2012, 18:23 GMT

    Great news for US fans. Build the grounds, people will come....

  • on October 5, 2012, 17:59 GMT

    Sorry correct me if I'm wrong, so before every match, two captains, match officials and commentators, going to stand in the middle of the ground and say: "oh yes this is the slab of concrete they laid 2 days ago. We don't have much to say about it because, it is as normal as any other piece of concrete. Please speak to a structural engineer if you want to find out if it works for spinners or not". How hard is to understand that when it comes to cricket, THE pitch is as important as the game itself?

  • Ganesh_Sanap on October 5, 2012, 17:36 GMT

    LOL. Deja Vu all over again. Hint: Pro-Cricket. Please first try organizing a one weekend tournament for all the regional teams, something that has not been done for 2nd year in a row now.

  • on October 5, 2012, 17:33 GMT

    I too Live in Atlanta and in addition to the league, tape tennis ball and hard tennis ball cricket are played left and right, which speaks volume about the popularity of the game here in the US. We ourselves play every Saturday night. With the rapid growth of South Asian and Caribbean population in the US, it's only a matter of short time before cricket becomes popular nationally here. I think artificial surfaces are just fine and anything done to promote the game should be encouraged. USACA needs to be praised for their efforts.

  • yorkslanka on October 5, 2012, 17:32 GMT

    if the americans are serious about cricket then the least they can do is get proper pitches..no commitment...

  • on October 5, 2012, 17:16 GMT

    I have been a casual cricketer in the Chicago for over a decade now. There are three different leagues, featuring over 70 club teams, with a total of over 2000 people playing the game every weekend from May through October. And all these matches happen on grounds where the pitch is artificial. The pitch is basically a 75 feet long slab of flat concrete, and astroturf is laid on top of it. Becomes a great batting pitch with lovely bounce, and some assistance to spinners as well. Granted the outfields need a lot of improvement, but this has been the "infrastructure" in USA for over 15 years now, with tens of thousands of people playing the game every weekend in summer. Shame on USACA on utlizing this huge existing infrastructure and popularity and elevating USA's cricket stature internationally.

  • on October 5, 2012, 16:47 GMT

    Those who say there is not enough cricket here, has not come here to see it. Atlanta itself has a league of its own. ICC is simply not serious in organizing cricket here. Otherwise it can find a lot of sponsors to kick start Major League Cricket.

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  • on October 5, 2012, 16:47 GMT

    Those who say there is not enough cricket here, has not come here to see it. Atlanta itself has a league of its own. ICC is simply not serious in organizing cricket here. Otherwise it can find a lot of sponsors to kick start Major League Cricket.

  • on October 5, 2012, 17:16 GMT

    I have been a casual cricketer in the Chicago for over a decade now. There are three different leagues, featuring over 70 club teams, with a total of over 2000 people playing the game every weekend from May through October. And all these matches happen on grounds where the pitch is artificial. The pitch is basically a 75 feet long slab of flat concrete, and astroturf is laid on top of it. Becomes a great batting pitch with lovely bounce, and some assistance to spinners as well. Granted the outfields need a lot of improvement, but this has been the "infrastructure" in USA for over 15 years now, with tens of thousands of people playing the game every weekend in summer. Shame on USACA on utlizing this huge existing infrastructure and popularity and elevating USA's cricket stature internationally.

  • yorkslanka on October 5, 2012, 17:32 GMT

    if the americans are serious about cricket then the least they can do is get proper pitches..no commitment...

  • on October 5, 2012, 17:33 GMT

    I too Live in Atlanta and in addition to the league, tape tennis ball and hard tennis ball cricket are played left and right, which speaks volume about the popularity of the game here in the US. We ourselves play every Saturday night. With the rapid growth of South Asian and Caribbean population in the US, it's only a matter of short time before cricket becomes popular nationally here. I think artificial surfaces are just fine and anything done to promote the game should be encouraged. USACA needs to be praised for their efforts.

  • Ganesh_Sanap on October 5, 2012, 17:36 GMT

    LOL. Deja Vu all over again. Hint: Pro-Cricket. Please first try organizing a one weekend tournament for all the regional teams, something that has not been done for 2nd year in a row now.

  • on October 5, 2012, 17:59 GMT

    Sorry correct me if I'm wrong, so before every match, two captains, match officials and commentators, going to stand in the middle of the ground and say: "oh yes this is the slab of concrete they laid 2 days ago. We don't have much to say about it because, it is as normal as any other piece of concrete. Please speak to a structural engineer if you want to find out if it works for spinners or not". How hard is to understand that when it comes to cricket, THE pitch is as important as the game itself?

  • WTEH on October 5, 2012, 18:23 GMT

    Great news for US fans. Build the grounds, people will come....

  • py0alb on October 5, 2012, 18:53 GMT

    Seriously, how hard is it to lay a half decent square? Amateur clubs all over the UK do it for a fraction of the cost of an artificial pitch.

    Even the lowliest village clubs would be ashamed to have to play on a artificial pitch.

  • priyanks11 on October 5, 2012, 19:08 GMT

    I cannot wait for international cricket to come here! i had gone for a baseball game and i think cricket is far more entertaining and i think americans will love this game !

  • naudurivsm on October 5, 2012, 19:09 GMT

    First of why is why people are trying Cricket in USA. They DO NOT want cricket at all. They even do support it by any means. It is shame they even do not telecast on the TV ( via ESPN or so) at the least the World cup matches. I think they are scared if cricket becomes popular their other sport industries will be locked down. It is even shameful that they have no respect for international sports etc. Anyone saw the Olympics coverage. it was just pathetic. Cicket is NO NO in USA. and it is better if we stay away.