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

‘We will find a batting cage somewhere and give it a go,’ Proteas star Heinrich Klaasen said after visiting Yankee Stadium. Photo: BackpagePix

‘We will find a batting cage somewhere and give it a go,’ Proteas star Heinrich Klaasen said after visiting Yankee Stadium. Photo: BackpagePix

Published Jun 7, 2024


Heinrich Klaasen has unquestionably been the most destructive hitter in T20 cricket over the past two years.

The flame-haired batter has smashed bowling attacks to all parts consistently through his amazing six-hitting prowess.

His ability to clear the boundary with regularity is a major reason why the bookmakers have shortened the odds on the Proteas Men’s team reaching an ICC tournament final for the first time since 1998 at the T20 World Cup in the US and the Caribbean.

But after a week spent taking in the sights and sounds of the Big Apple – which included visits to Times Square and the iconic Yankee Stadium in the Bronx – even Klaasen reckons it would take an almighty hit for him to reach the bleachers to score a home run.

“Obviously Yankee Stadium is quite an iconic stadium for the Americans. So, it was nice to see what it’s all about and see how hard the guys throw the ball,” Klaasen told the media yesterday.

“It’s completely different to what we do. But about the hit … it is quite a big bit. It’s about 120m.

“We as batters had a nice chat. We will find a batting cage somewhere and give it a go.”

That should provide the tournament organisers with some relief as the criticism of the surface at the recently constructed Nassau County Ground – where the Proteas played their opening game against Sri Lanka and face the Netherlands tomorrow (4.30pm start, SA time) – has only grown louder after each match.

It has become abundantly clear that the pitch favours the bowlers and has made scoring a lot more difficult for the batters, resulting in lower totals.

With the T20 World Cup being staged in the US for the first time in an effort to showcase the game to a new audience, the consensus has been that this may not be the ideal way to launch cricket as an attractive alternative to the traditional “favourite American pastime”, which is, of course, baseball.

Klaasen, however, feels cricket remains “much more entertaining” after watching a Major League clash between the New York Yankees and Minnesota Twins, and believes “us batters just need to suck it up”.

“The wicket certainly levels the playing field quite big. Hopefully we will be playing on a new strip (against the Netherlands). There have been two matches back-to-back on the same strip,” he said.

“We don’t mind that there is something in it for the bowlers, but we just want a fair contest.

“But having played the previous game against Sri Lanka, we know what to expect. We have to reformulate our game plans.

“We have to take responsibility that it might not be a wicket where we can just tee off, and now try to play some clever cricket.”

The Proteas were asked to bowl first in their tournament opener after Sri Lanka captain Wanindu Hasaranga surprisingly opted for his team to take first strike.

The seam bowlers therefore had the best of the bowling conditions, especially with the matches having an unusual early 10.30am local time start.

Klaasen feels that despite all the mitigating factors, the outcome of the toss will not be the game-breaker in terms of the result against the Dutch.

“The toss is not in your control. You have to deal with what you are dealt with. It might do more a bit in the morning, and then have another second roll and it could quieten down, but it won’t change much,” he explained.

“You can still hit boundaries. The one side of the field is not that big. As batters, we have to suck it up a little bit and hopefully we get a better wicket next time.

“It’s about getting the balance right. In the IPL, nobody complained that 270 played 270, so now the bowlers are just getting a bit of the conditions more in their favour.

“Batters need to suck it up. It’s not always going to be a 200-run wicket. We have to play a bit smarter cricket to get over the line. You just have to use your cricket brain a little more.”