Australia news March 24, 2011

'Result pitches' in Shield cricket worry Sutherland

James Sutherland, the Cricket Australia chief executive, has admitted he is concerned Sheffield Shield players are not being adequately prepared for international cricket, due to a growing tendency towards "result pitches" that are favourable to bowlers.

In the lead-up to this season's Shield final, won by Tasmania in Hobart, winning captain George Bailey spoke frankly about widespread instances of pitch doctoring in the competition and how it had impacted on the readiness of batsmen and bowlers for Test cricket. The results were painfully clear during a dire home Ashes series, prompting an independent review into the performance of the national team.

"There's no repercussions if a game lasts two or three days, so I think teams request for a result pitch, and the surfaces are playing accordingly, rightly or wrongly," Bailey told AAP. "This probably means our first-class bowlers aren't learning to bowl teams out consistently on flat, batsman-friendly pitches, which we probably saw a little bit during the Ashes.

"The flip side of that is the batsmen aren't having the opportunities to build big innings and get themselves going and score really big hundreds."

Sutherland said he too was worried about the prevailing conditions providing "a false sense of security" for bowlers in particular. "I think we need to be very careful that we don't err on the side of having pitches that are, I guess, prepared to deliver a result," Sutherland told the Cricket Australia website. "The primary purpose of Sheffield Shield cricket is to develop cricketers for the international level, for Test cricket, so one of my concerns there is the playing conditions.

"For batsmen they have to work hard and it's difficult, but at the same time it can lull bowlers into a false sense of security as to actually how good things are. If you go and have a look at Test pitches around the world, they are very, very hard, very, very dry and they have very little grass on them.

"That's one of the things Australian bowlers have to prepare themselves for, when playing at that level. You need to understand exactly what you're up against and the best place to do that is in our surrounds."

Bailey's claims will be investigated by the board's playing conditions committee, which includes former players Mark Taylor, Matthew Hayden, Greg Chappell, Shane Warne, players union boss Paul Marsh and board chairman Jack Clarke.

Another contentious matter is the machinations surrounding the launch of the expanded domestic Twenty20 competition for next summer. Numerous state associations have expressed dissatisfaction with the slovenly nature of negotiations, leaving them very little time to assemble their teams.

However Sutherland argued careful decisions were more prudent, given their lasting effect on the game in this country. "I think there are certainly some issues that are still up in the air and need to be resolved sooner rather than later," he said. "But some of these issues are new to us - the question of private investment in teams, for example, is something that's new to Australian cricket - and they're decisions that once made are irreversible.

"So you can understand the importance of the debate and discussion around those topics, and the need for member associations and the board to make sure they're absolutely certain of not only the right decision, but also the right approach to roll out."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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