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States could lose points for poor pitches

Brydon Coverdale

November 18, 2012

Comments: 15 | Text size: A | A

Nathan Hauritz sends down a delivery, South Australia v Queensland, Sheffield Shield, day one, Adelaide Oval, October 23, 2012
On seam-friendly pitches, life hasn't been easy for spinners like Nathan Hauritz this Sheffield Shield season © Getty Images
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Cricket Australia will consider taking Sheffield Shield points away from state sides if they host matches on substandard pitches. A meeting of state and territory chief executives, as well as Cricket Australia's executives, in Melbourne last week determined that a pitch inspection process would be introduced from January 13, with the aim of ensuring Shield surfaces were good enough to prepare players for Test cricket.

There has been strong criticism of domestic pitches this summer, including from the South Australia coach Darren Berry, who said earlier this month that states were aiming to produce "result pitches", which had the effect of making fast bowlers' figures look more impressive than they should be. And Michael Hussey told ESPNcricinfo that extremely seam-friendly Shield pitches were detrimental to the development of batsmen, fast bowlers or spinners.

The newly relaid pitch square at Bellerive Oval in Hobart has been especially difficult to bat on this season, with innings totals of 112, 237, 138, 196, 95, 142 and 360 in the first two games. James Sutherland, the Cricket Australia chief executive, said the new pitch inspection process was likely to take place only in the event of a match providing out-of-the-ordinary results.

"What we want to do is make it very clear that our expectation around pitches is that we want the best pitches for all top-level cricket but particularly shield cricket," Sutherland told the Sunday Age. "The hypothesis there is that if you're preparing players for Test cricket it follows that you should have pitches that are akin to international standard.

"The thinking is there'll be the possibility if a pitch is deemed to be not of the appropriate standard, or significantly below it, that one of the consequences we'd be looking at would be loss of points."

"We just have a feeling that over the past three years or so that scores, particularly in the first innings, are down ... and that the pitches are a lot more conducive to faster bowlers and seam bowlers. On top of that, one of the things that comes with a shorter game on a pitch that's suited to the fast bowlers is there's less opportunity for the spin bowlers to bowl and develop, and even get a game in some places."

This season, no spinner has taken more than two wickets in a Shield innings and not since Bryce McGain in 2007-08 has a spinner collected 30 victims in a Shield season. In the past decade, only five times has a spinner enjoyed a 30-wicket Shield summer, while fast and medium bowlers have achieved the feat a collective 86 times in the same period.

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

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Posted by raghavan88 on (November 20, 2012, 4:46 GMT)

Traditionally each state in Australia used to prepare its own unique track.Brisbane-Balanced Track with good bounce and assistance for batsmen,seamers and spinners alike,Sydney-Spinning track from day 3 or 4,Melbourne-Sluggish track with spongy bounce and minimal assistance for seamers,the ball keeping lower with each passing day,Adelaide-Subcontinental track,slow with a bit of turn and batsman-friendly,Perth-Lively track with sharp bounce and maximum assistance for seamers,the ball rising higher with each passing day and lastly Hobart-Seam and swing like England and New Zealand,ideal for swing bowlers.This variety in tracks was key in Aussie dominance in the past.However, this is somewhat missing in recent years.SCG is no longer a turner while WACA and Gabba have lost a fair bit of bounce.

Posted by SmashingBaby on (November 19, 2012, 3:24 GMT)

Not sure how a bad pitch is seam friendly but not spin friendly. If a pitch was really bad then wouldn't the spin bowlers be turning the ball square and making it spit off the pitch? None of the quotes I've read saying the pitches are bad were from bowlers. Poor batting mindsets and techniques on the other hand WILL give the fast bowlers impressive-looking figures and not leave many wickets for the spinners to come on later and get. Solution: instead of inspecting pitches, ban any first class player from playing twenty20.

Posted by zenboomerang on (November 19, 2012, 2:52 GMT)

It would be good if CA became more consistent - they are the ones that asked State curators to put more 'green' into the pitches in the first place a couple of years ago... It also seems a poor policy to deduct points from Shield teams for something that is out of their control - its not like Bailey asked the Bellerive curator to make these pitches - sure fine the State body but not the players, its not their fault... There is also the point that cricket has started a month earlier than usual so pitches are less established than usual + Bellerive has a new pitch, so getting it bedded in takes time - both the latest WACA pitch & the MCG 'drop-ins' took a few seasons to get right... Seems CA has put as much thought into this as they did with the SS 3rd umpire reviews...

Posted by Meety on (November 18, 2012, 23:52 GMT)

@Craig Dengate - I would LOVE for Shield games to go 5 days. There would be some cost considerations - contracts, running costs etc. However, the benefits would be the possibility that spinners become more useful later in matches. This of course would depend a bit on the pitches not being too juicy that the games are over in 3 days!!!!

Posted by L4zybugg3r on (November 18, 2012, 23:52 GMT)

@azzaman333, @ross_fleming - I agree the Shield pitches are fine, it was only a few years ago that people were complaining they were too flat. Also did everyone just forget how unresponsive the gabba test was? Then what is next, Adelaide. The way Adelaide pitches have been made for ages means that to get a result you either need a team who can't bat well or a choke (Eng in 2006/07). I remember the curator was interviewed and he was saying how happy he was with the pitch and how often they would get a result. It seemed a bit deluded as it was mostly due to the good Aus bowling attack doing hard yards. Perhaps it would be better if SCG returned to being spin friendly, we just need a variety of pitches. Anyway Shield pitches are ok, Test pitches are too flat - perhaps because our Test batting is suspect?

Posted by Mary_786 on (November 18, 2012, 23:46 GMT)

@Ross_fleming well said champ.

Posted by KhanMitch on (November 18, 2012, 12:36 GMT)

I agree that the pitches have been tough to bat on, but good batsman such as Khawaja have shown that if you apply yourself you can score. In the game against Tasmania he scored 138 and Tasmania got 95 and 140 which included batsman asuch as Doolan, Bailey and Cosgrove. Spinners such as Hauritz have also been getting wickets. I would rather have testing pitches that make the batsman work hard and where we get results then a pitch such as the Adelaide oval where batsman get double centuries and we end up having too many drawn games.

Posted by Edwards_Anderson on (November 18, 2012, 12:26 GMT)

Hughes, Khawaja and Doolan have been getting runs on these tough pitches, keep the pitches as they are as we don't want dull flat pitches where all batsman start to get centuries and we have no results, results in shield make for interesting cricket.

Posted by   on (November 18, 2012, 7:46 GMT)

@DylanBrah - completely agree mate. At the end of the day, Shield Cricket is the breeding ground for Test Match cricket. Make the pitches the same so we can develop these players. As for results, isn't that why there was a first innings points calculation introduced? Secondly, I see no reason why we couldn't have the Shield games going for 5 days rather than the 4 they currently do.

Posted by srriaj317 on (November 18, 2012, 6:51 GMT)

@Maxim Payne: I don't believe CA would let the situation get that out of hand. As a general rule, I would expect the average cost of a wicket in a game to between 30 to 40 runs/wkt. If a pitch deviates from this band by more than 5 runs, it is fair that it needs to be looked into. Currently, any seamer can bag wickets at Hobart while our spinners are not getting any development. Most batsmen also don't know what it feels like to put your head down and get a big 200 when small 100s are a big deal already. The future batsmen aren't going to get 1000 Shield runs a year at this rate.

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Brydon CoverdaleClose
Brydon Coverdale Assistant Editor Possibly the only person to win a headline-writing award for a title with the word "heifers" in it, Brydon decided agricultural journalism wasn't for him when he took up his position with ESPNcricinfo in Melbourne. His cricketing career peaked with an unbeaten 85 in the seconds for a small team in rural Victoria on a day when they could not scrounge up 11 players and Brydon, tragically, ran out of partners to help him reach his century. He is also a compulsive TV game-show contestant and has appeared on half a dozen shows in Australia.
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