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Klaasen on New York pitch: Batters need to suck it up

"At the IPL, no one really complained about 270 plays 270. Now the bowlers are getting conditions a little bit more in their favour"

Firdose Moonda
Firdose Moonda
Batters will have to learn to "suck it up," and accept the difficulties of run-scoring at Nassau County, according to one of T20s most prolific run-scorers: Heinrich Klaasen. The South African middle-order batter, who is reputed for his six-hitting ability, put aside his personal preferences and stuck to the team line that they "don't mind," having a little spice in the surface for bowlers, especially their seamers.
After South Africa bowled Sri Lanka out of for their lowest T20I total - 77 - at the first T20 World Cup match played in New York, and took 16.2 overs to chase the score, Anrich Nortje said he didn't "think there's anything wrong with the wickets," and that they are just "different," to the kinds of surfaces players have become used to in the recent past, especially at the last IPL. Klaasen agrees.
"At the IPL, no one really complained about 270 plays 270. Now the bowlers are getting conditions a little bit more in their favour, so I think it's just getting the balance right," Klaasen said from New York, where South Africa will play three of their four group matches. "The batters need to suck it up as well. It's not always going to be a 200 wicket, and you have to play a little bit smarter cricket to get over the line. We don't mind if the bowlers got something in it; that makes some good entertaining cricket and you have to use your cricket brain a little bit. It's just getting the balance right, too flat and too bowler-friendly. That's obviously why the groundsman gets paid the big bucks."
But at this early stage of the T20 World Cup 2024, with two matches played in Nassau County and six to come, the curator has got more criticism than anything else for a surface with inconsistent bounce that Andy Flower told ESPNcricnfo's Timeout is "bordering on dangerous."
Flower, the former Zimbabwe captain and former England coach, was speaking in between innings as India dismissed Ireland for 96 and two of their batters, Rohit Sharma and Rishabh Pant, were hit by Irish quick Josh Little in response. "You saw the ball bouncing from a length, both ways, so skidding low occasionally but in the main bouncing unusually high and striking people on the thumb, the gloves and the helmet and making life very, very difficult for any batter," Flower said.
Klaasen conceded that the strip South Africa played Sri Lanka on was "a little bit too much on the bowler's side," but regards it "part of the game," which players have to adapt to. "Sometimes you get the wickets too flat, and now it's just as bad and you need to suck it up a little bit. Hopefully we get a better wicket in the next game." The other concern is the outfield. It is heavy and sandy, which meant even balls that were timed well didn't always travel very far.
There are four drop-in pitches at the ground and it is still unclear whether moving will produce a more even contest. While Klaasen said the pitch used for the India-Bangladesh warm-up match last week facilitated a "decent" score in the first innings (182), it didn't when India met Ireland on it on Wednesday. Whichever surface they get, Klaasen is convinced South Africa can fare better because they have some idea of what to expect. "We've got experience playing in these types of conditions now, so we just need to go back into the memory bank and take some responsibility that it might not be a wicket that we can just tee off and hit boundaries," he said. "We need to play some clever cricket and need to make peace with that."
All that said, Klaasen still thinks it's possible to clear the ropes. "You can still hit boundaries. If you play on one side of the field it's not that big and so you can still hit boundaries."
But not, perhaps, boundaries the size of what the South Africans saw on an excursion to Yankee Stadium. "That's quite a big hit. We worked it out and it's 120 metres. It's a long hit, but we as batters had a nice chat and we reckon we can give it a go. We will find a batting cage somewhere and try to see what we can do."
The upshot from their visit was Klaasen's conclusion that baseball batters are doing something "completely different to what we do," and that he thinks "cricket is more entertaining than baseball," even though those who enjoy higher totals may disagree.
South Africa's next match is against Netherlands - who have beaten them in their previous two World Cup meetings - on Saturday in New York.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's correspondent for South Africa and women's cricket