India in Australia 2015-16 January 24, 2016

Smith critical of Australian pitches

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'Dhoni's dropped chance was turning point' - Smith

Australia's captain Steven Smith has criticised the nature of home pitches this summer, arguing that the Gabba and the WACA Ground in particular have work to do to ensure they regain their natural characteristics in the future.

Following the loss of the fifth and final ODI against India in Sydney, Smith noted the series' record tally of 3159 runs in a five-match limited-overs bout. He went on to state that Australian pitches needed to show more variety than had been the case this time around, when the Test matches against New Zealand and West Indies were also marked by dull surfaces, with the exception of a well-grassed Adelaide pitch for the inaugural day/night Test.

The man of the ODI series was India's prolific opener Rohit Sharma, but Smith reserved a special mention for his inexperienced bowlers. John Hastings, Kane Richardson and Scott Boland all shouldered a heavy load on wickets that offered precious little help, and were largely able to restrict India's talented top order to tallies within Australia's reach.

"It was quite remarkable wasn't it, to see over 3000 runs scored in five ODI matches," Smith said. "For me the most disappointing thing was the characteristics of our wickets. I'd like to see the Gabba and WACA produce the traditional fast and bouncy wickets that we're used to. I thought they were pretty slow and benign and it was very difficult for the bowlers.

"I was really proud of our bowlers throughout this series though, I thought they really stepped up at pivotal times, we've got quite a few bowlers out at the moment and quite a young, inexperienced attack and we were able to pull it back in every game including [the SCG], so I'm really proud of the performance of those guys."

Smith can at least be consoled by the fact that others at Cricket Australia are aware of the imbalance and eager to alter in for next season, when South Africa and Pakistan will be the touring teams. The CA team performance manager Pat Howard has said he will be working on more equitable surfaces for 2016-17.

"In an ideal world we've got some of the best fast bowlers in the world who like it hard, fast and bouncy and we're not getting that at the moment," Howard told the Sydney Morning Herald. "We're after the old fair balance between bat and ball and the unique characteristics [of each ground].

"And we do try and get the domestic cricket to try and mirror the Test stuff so we'll have to sit down and do that at the end of the year and make sure we get those better aligned. The balance probably hasn't been as good as we'd like this year."

There was somewhat more assistance for pace bowlers at the SCG on Saturday, and Smith bemoaned dropped catches and the scoring of only seven runs in the final two overs of Australia's innings as reasons for defeat. India, by contrast, held their chances and collared 22 from the last 10 balls of the match to squeak home.

"We got seven off the last two overs and we probably should have got a bit better than that, we were in a pretty good position with some wickets in the shed as well, so you probably want to score a few more off the last two overs," Smith said. "Having said that I think it was our fielding that cost us quite a lot. We dropped a couple of quite regulation chances and when you're dropping players like that they're going to come back and bite you."

Australia's prime solace from the match was a breakout century by Mitchell Marsh, even if his pursuit of three figures contributed to the late slowing of team momentum. Smith said the way Marsh started was most significant, taking a positive attitude and working the ball around despite a delicate match scenario. He has been more stilted at other times this season when granted batting opportunities.

"Anytime you get a hundred you get some confidence out of it and the most pleasing thing for me today was the way he started," Smith said. "He came out and was nice and positive from ball one, he hit the ball hard down the ground, he hit his sweepers, got himself in. We know when he gets himself in he's got incredible power and we saw that. Hopefully it's the start of something really special for Mitchell."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Andy199 on January 28, 2016, 3:32 GMT

    haha.. How funny! Behind the scenes I am pretty damn sure this is what Aus management tells their curators to do.. There is no way this Aus team can handle anything that the pitch can do.. these guys make runs BECAUSE they're dishing out flat tracks just how they claim sub-continental pitches are... This Aus team is extremely beatable and to counter that they started making friendly pitches! Their bowling is different when Starc plays but it's quite equivalent to other teams' attacks.. Not one test match seems interesting on Aus pitches of late.. Everything they offer is batting friendly and they've been winning solely because of home advantage!

  • Nampally on January 26, 2016, 19:25 GMT

    Yes, the pitches were bowlers nightmare! In close battles with number of wrong Umpiring decisions, a result of 3-2 to either team was nearer the truth than 4-1 Win for the Aussies. So it was a double edged sword faced by India- their bowlers being erratic & some critical decisions at crucial stages going against them. Bailey's first ball CBW(costing 100+ runs) & Maxwell's CBW in third test stand out against India. While Smith is criticising the Aussies for a dropped catch of Dhoni, he ignores the Aussie luck with the Umpires. India dropped Finch 4 times in his crucial innings of 77 which won an ODI for the Aussie. I personally feel India batted greatly on Aussie pitches despite injuries, their erratic bowling & fielding + despite the Umpiring decisions, which tilted the result in favour of the Aussies in at least 2 ODI's. Having more sporting pitches would have helped the bowlers of both the sides instead of dead wkts.

  • Harmony111 on January 26, 2016, 13:09 GMT

    MODS, pls publish. @brusselslion: My claim is a simple one, very simple one. Under certain conditions Ind bowlers are as good as anyone else. What happens in other conditions is not the point here so your attempted inference about that is hardly in the context. Now, "as good as anyone" denotes a potential which may or may not always become real. If I claim "NASA has the potential to send probes to other planets" then to prove this I don't need to list out all the past events. If I can find just a few ISOLATED, or a mere one such event then my claim is proved. Even all negatives don't disprove my claim, eg a fast bowler who often bowls at 97MPH could assert he can cross the 100 mile barrier. So you are citing the negative results to disprove my claim when it doesn't work that way esp when my claim is a parity claim not a 'always-better-than' claim, and is not a hardcore logic type hypothesis. Did you really understand what I had meant by "fluid match-play claim vs rigorous maths proof"?

  • Harmony111 on January 26, 2016, 11:58 GMT

    @brusselslion:: My claim is a simple one, very simple one. Under certain conditions Ind bowlers are as good as anyone else. What happens in other conditions is not the point here so your attempted inference about that is hardly in the context. Now, "as good as anyone" denotes a potential which may or may not always become real. If I claim "NASA has the potential to send probes to other planets" then to prove this I don't need to list out all the past events. If I can find just a few ISOLATED, or a mere one such event then my claim is proved. Even all negatives don't disprove my claim, eg a fast bowler who often bowls at 97MPH could assert he can cross the 100 mile barrier. So you are citing the negative results to disprove my claim when it doesn't work that way esp when my claim is a parity claim not a 'always-better-than' claim, and is not a hardcore logic type hypothesis. Btw, did you really understand what I had meant by "fluid match-play claim vs rigorous maths proof"????

  • muzika_tchaikovskogo on January 26, 2016, 4:35 GMT

    I wholeheartedly agree with Smith. The odd exception apart, pitches in Australia have become absolutely lifeless and this has been the general pattern over the last decade or so. The variety of surfaces they had in Australia in the 90s is now well and truly a thing of the past.

  • AussieNSW on January 26, 2016, 0:53 GMT

    @John_Bnsa....Ummm..... Sorry to derail your train of logic there. But Steve Smith is criticising the wickets here after a very successful summer, not after a failure. A 5-0 test summer backed up by a 4-1 ODI series, where the one loss got down to the last over in a well and truly dead rubber match is a pretty good result on the back of a big WC win last time we played ODI cricket at home. At the level of class that the Australian ODI side in particular is at I am sure that Smith just craves some competition from the opposition and is perhaps frustrated at the toll that these flat wickets are taking on both our bowling stocks and preparation for overseas tours. India finally got a win here so just relax for a while.

  • brusselslion on January 25, 2016, 20:35 GMT

    @Big_Poppa_94: Hopefully my reply to @Harmony111 will be published as it also addresses your comment to some extent. You state that "India's best bowling performances came on sporting wickets: NZ (2009), WACA 2008, Lord's 2014, Trent Bridge 2007, Karachi 2006, Joburg 2006 etc." This may be true, but the inference is that the wickets where India performed poorly - and let's face it, there have been quite a few instances - were all non-sporting wickets. Surely, you don't believe this to be the case?

  • brusselslion on January 25, 2016, 20:29 GMT

    @Harmony111: In a previous post you stated that "On grass Indian bowlers are as good as anyone else.." which must surely be considered to be a rather wide ranging - broad to use your term - statement. To support this opinion - not fact - you offer a number of isolated facts e.g. SA bowled out for 84, NZ for 92, win vs. Aus@WACA, Eng bowled out for a few low scores in Eng (actually 2 scores under 300 in last 2 tours), but ignore other facts e.g. during the last 2 India tours to Eng, Eng have scored 450+ on 7 occasions, and India have been bowled out for less than 300 13 times. My opinion, based on these facts, is that the England bowlers have outperformed the Indian bowlers in England. Making the not unreasonable assumption that at least some English tracks had some grass on them, then I would suggest that there is little evidence to support your hypothesis. Of course, past performance is no indicator of the present, but there is equally little evidence to suggest things have changed.

  • Big_Poppa_94 on January 25, 2016, 14:29 GMT

    @BRUSSELSLION: 2011 was on the back of winning the World Cup where form inevitably drops. Also it was an ageing team. 2014 was the first time Vijay, Rahane, Kohli and Pujara had played a Test series in England. India's best bowling performances came on sporting wickets: NZ (2009), WACA 2008, Lord's 2014, Trent Bridge 2007, Karachi 2006, Joburg 2006 etc.