Surface tension 

Pitches in the IPL haven’t favoured batters, but there’s belief they may become more batting-friendly by the time T20 World Cup commences 

Published: 01st October 2021 09:37 AM  |   Last Updated: 01st October 2021 09:37 AM   |  A+A-

CSK’s Josh Hazlewood celebrates the wicket of Abhishek Sharma | SPORTZPICS

Express News Service

CHENNAI:  156/6, 157/4, 125/7, 120/7, 127/9, 130/7, 134/7 & 139/4. These are the totals at Sharjah Cricket Stadium after the Indian Premier League resumed in the UAE on September 19. The venue will still host six more matches, including two play-offs before getting an eight-day rest ahead of the T20 World Cup where 11 matches are scheduled at this ground. 

Since the restart of the IPL, none of the pitches at Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah have produced outright flat decks. In the 15 matches so far, no team has touched 200 with Rajasthan Royals’s 185 at Dubai being the highest. It is the only match where both teams scored in excess of 180 with Chennai Super Kings and Kolkata Knight Riders fixture in Abu Dhabi producing totals of 171/6 and 172/8 being the second highest. It is in contrast to what was in the beginning of the 2020 edition, where the first 15 matches witnessed nine scores of 180 and above and the least defendable total was Delhi Capitals’ 157, a team that arguably had the best bowling attack in the league.

This edition, Punjab have defended even a total of 125. Even though pitches have showed signs of slowing down in the second innings, teams have been wary of batting first because of the dew factor that could have a bearing while bowling second. Teams have chosen to field first 10 times and have gone on to win six of those, including Chennai Super Kings on Thursday, who chased down Sunrisers Hyderabad’s 134, to confirm their play-off spot. Speaking at the toss, MS Dhoni, while choosing to bowl first, hoped that the unused pitch will not be as slow as previous ones, but the traits remained throughout, which Chennai’s attack made good use of. 

While the big-hitters have found it hard to force the pace of the wicket in search of boundaries, the touch players, technically sound ones, have been able to manoeuvre the field and play smart, successful cricket. So this brings the question, how the pitches will behave at the T20 World Cup. Though pitches that tend to have a balance between ball and bat can still produce exciting T20 cricket, those played on slow pitches where teams scrap their way tend to be sleep inducers.

And it hasn’t happened because the curators have wanted it this way. These are tired pitches with the UAE alone hosting 123 matches since the pandemic began. Over an 11-month period with pandemic bringing cricket to a halt in many countries, it was the most sought after country, playing host to an entire edition of the IPL in 2020, the Abu Dhabi T10, part of Pakistan Super League and also international matches involving Afghanistan, Ireland, Zimbabwe and UAE. 

While Abu Dhabi shared much of the workload hosting 81 matches before the IPL 2021 resumed, the Sharjah pitch was relaid recently and is yet to settle down. At Dubai, with the pitch getting less light because of the stadium’s structure, curators haven’t had it easy too. Which is why keeping the T20 World Cup in mind, the organisers distributed the matches between the three venues, so that all venues get adequate rest. 

Keeping the T20 World Cup in mind, each of the venues has seen the curators leave some grass on the pitch, which stops it from breaking fast and hold it together. It is understood that the curators are also watering regularly so the strips doesn’t get loose. It could offer more to the batsmen by the time the World Cup begins. 

Brief scores: SRH 134/7 in 20 ovs (Saha 44; Hazlewood 3/24) lost to CSK 139/4 in 19.4 ovs (Ruturaj 45, Du Plessis 41, Holder 3/27). 


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