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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • John on March 26, 2011, 7:59 GMT

    Gotta agree with D.V.C and gogoldengreens. The curators in Adelaide and Melbourne in particular need to prepare fairer pitches than the lifeless roads they've been doing. Adelaide has been nothing but a bowler's graveyard for the past 40 years.

  • Daniel on March 25, 2011, 10:04 GMT

    They have it backwards. Test match pitches aren't results orientated enough.

  • Dummy4 on March 25, 2011, 8:29 GMT

    I'm not sure all of them were meant as result pitches. With the La Nina weather pattern we had a very wet summer and a lot of the gave were rain effected or had rain interfere with pitch preparation.

  • Christopher on March 25, 2011, 8:28 GMT

    Sutherland is trying hard to deflect blame for the last 3 years,away from the administration,coaches and selectors,by blaming the Shield competition-the same one that has produced all our great players.The only doctored pitch ive seen this summer was the one used in the perth ashes test which suddenly developed alarming pace and bounce,to australias' advantage.Clearly,Bailey and Sutherland cant mean that all pitches are doctored in the same way or their comments would be even less relevent.That means diversity of conditions.The shield teams regularly play interstate meaning they all have equal opportunities.The Shield final saw 2 x 440 plus scores and the last WA game went the distance.If batsmen are forced to work harder for their runs,its the best possible preparation for international cricket.Its impossible to judge the test form of shield players because they arent getting selected while the same few test incumbents who arent playing shield are being allowed to fail for years.

  • Karl on March 25, 2011, 3:43 GMT

    How about better pitches for tests rather than ones that are flat roads designed to have draws?

  • jack on March 25, 2011, 0:43 GMT

    this is a stupid comment about batsmen not being able to build innings because of bowler friendly wickets at domestic level, if pitches are easier at international level then they should easily score runs not struggle. The real problem ids the batsmen arnt good enough. if you cant score hundreds against domestic bowlers no atter what the pitch then you arnt good enough for international cricket where the bowlers are much better and can test you on flat wickets more then these domestic bowlers would on a green top. these pitches are good because it shows which batsmen have the temperment determination and technique to survive international cricket. Having batting friendly pitches that allowed them toscore big runs would not make them better batsmen but only premote mediocrity in technique and application.

  • Dummy4 on March 24, 2011, 22:00 GMT

    First they moan about the decks being too flat, now they moan about them doing too much, Sutherland's not asking for much is he?! The man's a waste of space, and a clueless one at that.

  • Philip on March 24, 2011, 21:42 GMT

    I don't quite understand this. If you take the case of Australia's current batting - it does not have technical proficiency to any great depth. I would have thought batting on difficult (ie bowler-friendly) pitches would have encouraged better techniques. Instead, the youngsters coming through in the Shield often have obvious problems when it seams around and some who are in highish regard are purely limited-overs all-rounder types. Now, it's expecting too much for everyone to play like Sunil Gavaskar, but I would have thought that these pitches should be improving the batting markedly, sorting the men out from the boys so to speak. If this isn't happening yet, then maybe the pitches should stay like they are until the batting is sorted.

  • Andrew on March 24, 2011, 12:51 GMT

    Too much grass on the pitch?? I think batsmen need to HTFU!!! Hauritz hit two Shield centuries this summer Mitch Johnson hit one as well, so it can't have been too tough! I don't mind a result pitch as long as there are some dry spinning pitches, the odd road & some green tops. Variety & close competition will develop players.

  • django on March 24, 2011, 12:34 GMT

    This has been going on for some time. I laugh when I hear claims from India, Lanka that we doctor test pitches to suit fast bowling. Obviously no-one watches domestic cricket then because you get some pretty good fast bowling pitches. Next time our nice little friends from the subcontinent visit we should give them one of our domestic wickets. Its time to fight back Aussies!

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