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Ponting asks batters to 'lower expectations' about big totals at T20 World Cup

Pitches in the USA and the Caribbean may not always be conducive to 200-plus totals

Nagraj Gollapudi
Having been "spoiled" by a glut of record-breaking 200-plus totals in IPL 2024, teams and batters will need to "lower expectations" in the T20 World Cup 2024. This advice comes from former Australia captain Ricky Ponting, who felt that pitches in the West Indies - co-hosting the 20-team World Cup with the USA - are likely to "slow down" towards the latter half when the Super Eights and knockout matches will be played.
Ponting's comments come days after Sri Lanka were bowled out for 77, their lowest T20I total, in their defeat to South Africa in New York. They were flattened by the South African pace battery, led by Anrich Nortje's career-best 4 for 7. There were 127 dot balls in the entire match, the most at a men's T20 World Cup game.
South Africa also survived a tense phase in the chase and took 16.4 overs to complete the six-wicket win. It was the first T20I at the Nassau County International Cricket Stadium, cricket's first modular venue, and the first impressions were of it being not being T20-friendly. But Nortje had disagreed, saying "you don't need 20 sixes" for an entertaining game. Heinrich Klaasen, who anchored the chase, felt batters needed a blend of Test and ODI skills "to get over the line" with the ball moving and bouncing inconsistently off a drop-in pitch.
Ponting, speaking to ESPNcricinfo on Tuesday, highlighted another contributing factor. "Being a day game, the ball swung and seamed a little bit. So batsmen will have to keep that in mind, how they start their innings and maybe just lower expectations on scores. 240 was sort of a score that you were aiming to get in the IPL. It's probably not going to be that for the first part of the tournament here in New York. So that sets a whole lot of different challenges."
The ICC knew that building a cricket stadium from scratch in New York would be ambitious. They hired the head curator of the Adelaide Oval, Damian Hough, to prepare and fit four drop-in pitches at the venue along with six drop-in pitches at a separate nearby facility in Cantiague Park. The new ground was barely a couple of weeks complete when it hosted its first match, a warm-up between India and Bangladesh on June 1.
During the US leg of the T20 World Cup, eight of the 16 matches, including the marquee India versus Pakistan contest on June 9, are scheduled to take place in New York. All of them are day games. India play three of their four group matches in New York starting with the one against Ireland on Wednesday.
Ponting, who arrived in New York this week from Australia and is part of the ICC's commentary panel, believed that expectations needed to be tempered especially considering it wasn't that long ago that a different high-profile T20 tournament was throwing up scores in excess of 250.
"I've heard Damian Hough quoted post the first game here in New York about his whole vision for this wicket was to try and even up the contest between bat and ball," Ponting said. "And certainly, there's no hiding the fact in the first game [between SL and SA] it was probably just a little bit swayed in the bowler's favour. But the other thing we have to be a little bit mindful of is we have probably all been a little bit spoiled of watching the run fests in the IPL over the last couple of months where we had probably the extreme opposite."
"The other thing we have to be a little bit mindful of is we have probably all been a little bit spoiled of watching the run fest in the IPL over the last couple of months where we had probably the extreme opposite."
Ricky Ponting
India captain Rohit Sharma echoed similar sentiments at the media briefing on Tuesday.
"Certainly, it doesn't look like a place where you can score easily," he said. "So, we've got to be a little mindful of that and see what best we can do. We are all coming off playing an IPL where a lot of runs were scored. So, it's important to have that balance, understand what is required here. It's certainly not going to be an IPL kind of scores here. We are very mindful of that. And we just need to assess as quickly as possible and then bring your game into the picture."
As head coach at Delhi Capitals, Ponting was "almost embarassed" after eventual champions Kolkata Knight Riders scored 272 against his side in April. In a chat with The Cricket Monthly soon after, Ponting said a score of 300, which he once felt was impossible, was now in play mainly because of the impact player rule in IPL.
"I actually think on the back of the 50-over World Cup [in India last year], the wickets through this last IPL were just outstanding," he said. "And the grounds are obviously not getting any bigger and these modern-day players are becoming very adept at power-hitting and going from ball one and carrying it on. So as this tournament progresses, we will see the wickets get a whole lot better here. But we also got to keep in mind what the curator's trying to do here. He is trying to even up the contest. So the teams are just going to have to adapt and adjust and play accordingly."

'Wickets in Caribbean could slow down toward back end'

While he is confident that teams would be able to score over 200 as the T20 World Cup carries on, Ponting felt the pitches in the West Indies are likely to become slow towards the business end of the tournament.
"The Caribbean in itself is a little bit of the unknown as to what the wickets are going be like there," he said. "I know that having Shai Hope in my team at the Delhi Capitals, he was talking about how they hadn't had any cricket on most of those [nine] venues in the Caribbean for a few months. It was all about trying to prepare the wickets and get the wickets as good as they can be.
"In previous years, certainly in CPL competitions as well, the wickets have been quite low and quite slow and aided spin. They will try to get away from that. I have got a feeling that the wickets will probably start really good in the Caribbean, and they might start to slow down towards the back end of the tournament, but we will have to wait and see there."

Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo