Conditions big challenge for T20 weekend in US
On May 22, 2010, cricket entered a truly foreign territory. Sri Lanka and New Zealand walked out to loud Punjabi music - Punjabi being a language used in India and Pakistan. After New Zealand won the toss, Angelo Mathews bowled the first international delivery in Florida, Kumar Sangakkara stood up to the stumps, and the first ball was short and failed to bounce higher than the knee.
International cricket's debut in America is remembered for the tacky lifeless surface that sucked all juice out of the two Twenty20 Internationals between New Zealand and Sri Lanka in May 2010. The pitch helped neither the batsmen nor the bowlers. "It was a dull and lifeless track which sucked the pace and bounce from the deliveries and made shot-making almost impossible," said ESPNcricinfo's report. "The ball stopped on the batmen, kept low, and was immensely hard to time. And it certainly wasn't the perfect advertisement for cricket in a foreign land."
The two T20Is produced first-innings scores of 120 and 81 by New Zealand. They defended 120 successfully, and comfortably.
Two years later, New Zealand, officially committed to spreading cricket in America, are back again, this time to play two T20Is against West Indies as the first leg of their full tour of the Caribbean. The presence of West Indies as one of the teams certainly promises a much bigger crowd owing to the population of Caribbean origin there, and also tangentially much more suitable choice of music to be played at the ground.
Yet the conditions remain the biggest concern before the weekend that will feature the back-to-back games. By all accounts, it's not the training facilities that are cause for concern at the Central Broward Regional Park Stadium Turf Ground. Daniel Vettori, New Zealand's captain in 2010, acknowledged them back then, and in his diary, Andrew Ellis has written in the Dominion Post: "The training facilities at the ground have been improved from the Black Caps' last visit, which should give us an excellent preparation for the first game."
It's the actual pitch that should worry both the players and the fans that will turn up. Jacob Oram has already sounded warning bells. New Zealand Cricket had sent its leading curator Mark Perham to Florida to try to address the issue, and somehow breathe some life into the track. Oram didn't think much came of it. Fairfax News NZ quoted him as saying: "Apparently the pitch has improved, but what we've trained on is similar to the match wicket and still quite similar to when we were here two years ago."
Oram played one of the two T20Is two years ago. Overhead conditions, Oram said, were going to be a bit of a challenge too. "It's warm, very muggy and extremely breezy," he said. "While the West Indies will be able to see that, we've had the experience of playing in these conditions."