January 6, 2014

What's a good pitch anyway?

It often seems that only pitches that assist fast bowlers through the game are considered up to standard
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The 2013 Delhi Test finished in three days. Ergo, was it a poor pitch?
The 2013 Delhi Test finished in three days. Ergo, was it a poor pitch? © BCCI

Cricket is one of those games where a question does not necessarily require a definitive answer. Merely exploring the parameters of the question provokes enough meaty debate to justify the question being asked in the first place. So on that basis, in the wake of the Ashes Test in Sydney, I pose this question: what defines a "good" Test pitch?

As this is a truly global forum, I expect a varied and sometimes passionate response from the four corners of the world. Assuming we can put aside the obvious patriotic bias, what are some of the qualities of a pitch that define it as good, bad or indifferent? Is it ultimately a question that can only be answered retrospectively, at the end of the game when the result is known, or is it possible to make a judgement call on it on the very first day (or relatively early in the match)?

Not long ago, a talkback caller on my weekly radio programme on the ABC was scathing in his criticism of all the pitches in India on Australia's most recent Test tour there, and similarly disdainful of most pitches in England on the last Ashes tour. When I pointed out some facts, he reluctantly conceded that his bias had been fed by lazy cricket writers who were looking for a populist audience, and we then enjoyed a more useful debate about how easy it was to succumb to an argument based on jingoism rather than cricketing knowledge.

So what defines a good pitch then? Is it a pitch where:

Plenty of runs are scored at a rate of 3-plus?

Barring bad weather, a game reaches a conclusion some time after tea on day four?

Fast bowlers and spinners have equal opportunities to take wickets (proportionately of course, given that it's usually three quicks and one spinner)?

A few centuries but not too many are made?

The ball carries through to the keeper until about day four, after which uneven bounce becomes more prevalent? (And if there is no uneven bounce late in the game, is that a sign of a poor pitch?)

Conditions do not favour either side to any great extent (keeping in mind the accusations of "doctored" pitches sometimes levelled at home teams)?

The toss of the coin doesn't effectively determine the outcome of the match?

I personally believe home teams are entitled to prepare pitches to suit their strengths. It is up to the visitors to select a team that can cope with those conditions. If the game goes deep into day four and beyond, it suggests a relatively even contest, not necessarily in terms of an outright victor but at least the possibility of a draw. The common thinking that associates "good" with bounce, carry, pace is one of the great misnomers. Cricket's complex global appeal lies in the fact that trying to tame Mitchell Johnson at home on a bouncy deck is as much of a challenge as coping with wily New Zealand seamers on a greentop, or using your feet against three slow bowlers on a pitch that turns from the first day. The notion that it should do plenty for the fast bowlers through the match but shouldn't turn for the spinners from the outset is a theory clearly propounded by those unable to bowl spin or bat against it.

Let's look then at the most recent home Tests played by every country and leave it up to the readers to decide which of these Tests were played on "good" pitches. Remember that this is only a small sample size and invariably favours the home team, but is that enough of a reason to refer to the pitches as "doctored"? Don't most teams struggle to win away from home? In this list (below), not one visiting team won a game but how many of the local media outlets made excuses about "home-town" pitches?

Bangladesh v NZ, Mirpur. Match drawn. Bangladesh 282 all out, NZ 437 all out, Bangladesh 269 for 3. No play on day five.

Zimbabwe v Pakistan, Harare. Zimbabwe won by 24 runs. Zimbabwe 294 all out, Pakistan 230 all out, Zimbabwe 199 all out, Pakistan 239 all out. Match concluded just after lunch on day five.

West Indies v Zimbabwe, Dominica. West Indies won by an innings and 65 runs. Zimbabwe 175 all out, West Indies 381 for 8 decl, Zimbabwe 141 all out. Match concluded after lunch on day three.

Sri Lanka v Bangladesh, Colombo (Premadasa). Sri Lanka won by seven wickets. Bangladesh 240 all out, Sri Lanka 346 all out, Bangladesh 265 all out, Sri Lanka 160 for 3. Match concluded late on day four.

South Africa v India, Durban. South Africa won by ten wickets. India 334 all out, South Africa 500 all out, India 223 all out, South Africa 59 for 0. Match concluded after tea on day five.

England v Australia, London (The Oval). Match drawn. Australia 492 for 9 decl, England 377 all out, Australia 111 for 6 decl, England 206 for 5 (21 runs short). Match concluded day five, close of play.

India v West Indies, Mumbai. India won by an innings and 126 runs. West Indies 182 all out, India 495 all out, West Indies 187 all out. Match concluded before lunch on day three.

New Zealand v West Indies, Hamilton. New Zealand won by eight wickets. West Indies 367 all out, New Zealand 349 all out, West Indies 103 all out, New Zealand 124 for 2. Match concluded after lunch on day four.

Pakistan v Sri Lanka, Abu Dhabi. Match drawn. Sri Lanka 204 all out, Pakistan, 383 all out, Sri Lanka 480 for 5 decl, Pakistan 158 for 2. Match concluded day five, close of play.

Australia v England, Sydney. Australia won by 281 runs. Australia 326 all out, England 155 all out, Australia 276 all out, England 166 all out. Match concluded after tea on day three.

At first glance, I would nominate The Oval, Harare, Colombo and Durban as examples of excellent pitches, but does that necessarily make the others poor? Sydney, for example, barely lasted three days and clearly favoured the home team, but there should rightly be no talk of doctored pitches. England inspected the pitch, selected their best team, won the toss and were still thrashed by a vastly superior Australian outfit. Despite fine centuries from Steven Smith and Chris Rogers, 24 wickets fell on the first two days. Would the Australian media have been silent if that happened in Galle or Chennai? The resoundingly better team triumphed in Sydney, regardless of conditions that clearly favoured their strengths. Similarly when Australia toured India in 2013, despite winning all four tosses, they simply weren't good enough on pitches that suited India's skills. Delhi was the only venue that saw a result late on day three, and was labelled a disgrace by the Australian media, who will now be deafeningly silent about the early finish in Sydney, no doubt. Hence my earlier question - do we only judge a pitch retrospectively after we see who wins?

The recent Ashes series in England was written up by many in the Australian media as being played on "blatantly doctored pitches". Most of these cricket writers are journalists who never really played cricket to any significant level and are therefore sucked into the trap of making excuses that they think will resonate with readers who are supposedly dumb and easily seduced by an appeal to blind patriotism. But they misjudge us badly - the true Australian cricket fan understands the nuances of this great game and can appreciate skill, however it is wrapped, pace or spin. There will, of course, be that small vocal minority that only wants to read about good news (or excuses) but fortunately they are unlikely to be reading a global cricket website like this - the local tabloids will cater adequately to their coarse needs and hoarse voices.

Michael Jeh is an Oxford Blue who played first-class cricket, and is a Playing Member of the MCC. He lives in Brisbane

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • njr1330 on January 8, 2014, 14:30 GMT

    Michael, in 2011, for the first time, Lancashire played more of their matches at Liverpool than at Manchester. 2011, they won the Championship for the first time in 77 years, because they bowled sides out. 2012, the same team playing at Old Trafford, got relegated, because they couldn't take 20 wickets. Why? Because OT, is a Test ground, and therefore, prepared as a flat batting track. I think you played at Liverpool years ago, and you will know it's not a bad or doctored wicket... Just one that gives bowlers a chance.

  • VB_Says on January 8, 2014, 13:31 GMT

    The phrase "doctored pitches" sounds like "ball tampering" which clearly means using illegal method to change the condition in favor of one side. So that phrase doesn't hold good. I am not of the view that touring sides expect home side to prepare pitches that would suit them. Test cricket is all about facing challenges in conditions foreign. To that end, a good pitch would be one that enables home team to play to their strengths. For e.g. When England toured India, spinning tracks were prepared to suit Indian bowlers. But English bowlers adapted so well that they won the series handsomely. Under similar conditions Australia lost. A bad pitch is therefore an under-prepared pitch where neither team is able to make an impact over the other, which includes flat tracks. Hence, if home team wins by an innings on the 3rd day, it means the touring side was not able to face the home side's challenge, thats it.

  • landl47 on January 8, 2014, 13:13 GMT

    A good pitch is one on which a result is likely (barring bad weather). The only pitches I don't like are those where it's almost impossible to get a test-class batsman out. Therefore, some help for the bowlers, whether quicks or spinners, is essential. I'd like to see pitches which help all kinds of bowling, but that's hard to achieve. However, anyone who has watched a lot of cricket will agree, I think, that seeing batsmen simply pile up huge totals is the least interesting cricket.

  • Suri_Shivam24 on January 8, 2014, 8:33 GMT

    In Australia, when you guys say that Sydney and Adelaide dont bounce much, thats relative, they bounce a hell of a lot more than the Indian pitches, similarly in India, Mohali is the fastest pitch in the country but it is no where close to being an Australian pitch, and thats fair because that is what makes test cricket interesting and overseas wins are celebrated more. That is how you judge a player, by his record overseas!

  • Harlequin. on January 8, 2014, 8:29 GMT

    @InsideHedge - I wouldn't say spinners are redundant on the first 2 days, they are useful for a holding role or a overs before lunch/at the end of the day. It is often interesting to see how a spinner changes his line, length and pace over the course of 5 days as the pitch breaks up. Also, it is not that turners offer no assistance to seamers on the last 2 days, they often don't offer assistance to seamers at all!

  • 07sanjeewakaru on January 8, 2014, 8:27 GMT

    To me a good test pitch is.. First day and through second day assist to fast bowlers well Then assist Batting well from 2nd,3rd and through 4rth day After that assist to Spinners well...

  • Rahul_Inspired on January 8, 2014, 6:29 GMT

    @HatsforBats... In 1998, If you say a great spinner like Shane Warne was ineffective because of the selective watering of one or two small areas of a pitch then you must be kidding yourself. On that test match Sachin actually practiced with Laxman Sivaramakrishnan to counter the outside leg stump bowling of Shane Warne and Sachin was successful with it as we all know. The funny thing is Shane kept on bowling the same line to Sachin no matter how bad was he hit. To talk about doctoring, India more or less keeps the same types of wickets no matter which the opposition is. Its not like for India, we will keep green tops, for SA we will keep flat wickets, for Eng we will keep slow and low wickets. For me changing the pitch with reference to the Opposition is Pitch Doctoring.

  • samincolumbia on January 8, 2014, 3:52 GMT

    Don't know about pitches, but we all agree when it comes to sensationalism, extreme bias and mis-reporting, aussie media takes the cake!

  • on January 8, 2014, 0:10 GMT

    Every homeside should be given a chance to make what suites them. If guests have got potential they will win. From this u can know how the team is good. If u will make all the pitches same, that would destroy the skill of boht batsman and bowlers. The good pacer would be that who could destroy oposition even in sub continent, goood spinner would be that who could threat the oposition in aus or sa. Similar standard for batsman also. Thats y skillful players doesnt mind pitches.

  • InsideHedge on January 7, 2014, 23:34 GMT

    @Dark_Harlequin: By your definition of a good pitch, spinners are rendered redundant on the first two days, are they not? Yet, you complain about turners not offering seam bowlers any assistance on the last two days.

    One of the issues with cricket is the form of tradition. Too many captains are robotic, they follow a script, one that's biased towards the seamers. The only time we see a spin bowler on the opening day in some parts of the world is when the fielding captain is trying to squeeze an over in before an interval.

    It's this reason why a captain that sets a field according to the batsman at the striker's end is suddenly called a genius!

  • njr1330 on January 8, 2014, 14:30 GMT

    Michael, in 2011, for the first time, Lancashire played more of their matches at Liverpool than at Manchester. 2011, they won the Championship for the first time in 77 years, because they bowled sides out. 2012, the same team playing at Old Trafford, got relegated, because they couldn't take 20 wickets. Why? Because OT, is a Test ground, and therefore, prepared as a flat batting track. I think you played at Liverpool years ago, and you will know it's not a bad or doctored wicket... Just one that gives bowlers a chance.

  • VB_Says on January 8, 2014, 13:31 GMT

    The phrase "doctored pitches" sounds like "ball tampering" which clearly means using illegal method to change the condition in favor of one side. So that phrase doesn't hold good. I am not of the view that touring sides expect home side to prepare pitches that would suit them. Test cricket is all about facing challenges in conditions foreign. To that end, a good pitch would be one that enables home team to play to their strengths. For e.g. When England toured India, spinning tracks were prepared to suit Indian bowlers. But English bowlers adapted so well that they won the series handsomely. Under similar conditions Australia lost. A bad pitch is therefore an under-prepared pitch where neither team is able to make an impact over the other, which includes flat tracks. Hence, if home team wins by an innings on the 3rd day, it means the touring side was not able to face the home side's challenge, thats it.

  • landl47 on January 8, 2014, 13:13 GMT

    A good pitch is one on which a result is likely (barring bad weather). The only pitches I don't like are those where it's almost impossible to get a test-class batsman out. Therefore, some help for the bowlers, whether quicks or spinners, is essential. I'd like to see pitches which help all kinds of bowling, but that's hard to achieve. However, anyone who has watched a lot of cricket will agree, I think, that seeing batsmen simply pile up huge totals is the least interesting cricket.

  • Suri_Shivam24 on January 8, 2014, 8:33 GMT

    In Australia, when you guys say that Sydney and Adelaide dont bounce much, thats relative, they bounce a hell of a lot more than the Indian pitches, similarly in India, Mohali is the fastest pitch in the country but it is no where close to being an Australian pitch, and thats fair because that is what makes test cricket interesting and overseas wins are celebrated more. That is how you judge a player, by his record overseas!

  • Harlequin. on January 8, 2014, 8:29 GMT

    @InsideHedge - I wouldn't say spinners are redundant on the first 2 days, they are useful for a holding role or a overs before lunch/at the end of the day. It is often interesting to see how a spinner changes his line, length and pace over the course of 5 days as the pitch breaks up. Also, it is not that turners offer no assistance to seamers on the last 2 days, they often don't offer assistance to seamers at all!

  • 07sanjeewakaru on January 8, 2014, 8:27 GMT

    To me a good test pitch is.. First day and through second day assist to fast bowlers well Then assist Batting well from 2nd,3rd and through 4rth day After that assist to Spinners well...

  • Rahul_Inspired on January 8, 2014, 6:29 GMT

    @HatsforBats... In 1998, If you say a great spinner like Shane Warne was ineffective because of the selective watering of one or two small areas of a pitch then you must be kidding yourself. On that test match Sachin actually practiced with Laxman Sivaramakrishnan to counter the outside leg stump bowling of Shane Warne and Sachin was successful with it as we all know. The funny thing is Shane kept on bowling the same line to Sachin no matter how bad was he hit. To talk about doctoring, India more or less keeps the same types of wickets no matter which the opposition is. Its not like for India, we will keep green tops, for SA we will keep flat wickets, for Eng we will keep slow and low wickets. For me changing the pitch with reference to the Opposition is Pitch Doctoring.

  • samincolumbia on January 8, 2014, 3:52 GMT

    Don't know about pitches, but we all agree when it comes to sensationalism, extreme bias and mis-reporting, aussie media takes the cake!

  • on January 8, 2014, 0:10 GMT

    Every homeside should be given a chance to make what suites them. If guests have got potential they will win. From this u can know how the team is good. If u will make all the pitches same, that would destroy the skill of boht batsman and bowlers. The good pacer would be that who could destroy oposition even in sub continent, goood spinner would be that who could threat the oposition in aus or sa. Similar standard for batsman also. Thats y skillful players doesnt mind pitches.

  • InsideHedge on January 7, 2014, 23:34 GMT

    @Dark_Harlequin: By your definition of a good pitch, spinners are rendered redundant on the first two days, are they not? Yet, you complain about turners not offering seam bowlers any assistance on the last two days.

    One of the issues with cricket is the form of tradition. Too many captains are robotic, they follow a script, one that's biased towards the seamers. The only time we see a spin bowler on the opening day in some parts of the world is when the fielding captain is trying to squeeze an over in before an interval.

    It's this reason why a captain that sets a field according to the batsman at the striker's end is suddenly called a genius!

  • njr1330 on January 7, 2014, 23:00 GMT

    '...not an ex-player.' ... so, it must be some other Michael Jeh, who Stats Guru says played 20 First Class matches !!

  • GrindAR on January 7, 2014, 19:17 GMT

    Best pitch is stays 90+% same althrough as how it behaved on Day1. Good ground is the one that takes weather phenomena out of play. Rules should also change. If there are no result, then the win should go to the team that has more runs per wicket scored(batting) / less runs per wicket (bowling).

    The rule should change, If there is no scoring of any kind for more than 3 overs, then a wicket (more balls faced in the crease) should go. All short pitched ball over the head should be no ball.

    The above rule will conclude the match before lunch of day5 in 95% of the cases, in Day3 when the team deliberately slow down scoring. And there will be one more element of excitement for fans watching the game (bring more crowd). This one in particular will eliminate some core issues of pitch debate.

  • Srini_Indian on January 7, 2014, 19:06 GMT

    @Not_a_keybored_expert: If the dustbowl is a doctored pitch why wasn't the greentop in Perth is a doctored pitch? In India the pitches always slow and spins. It doesn't matter which opposition India plays, but I'll give you an example of pitch doctoring. Compare the australian pitches when SA and India toured there. Flat tracks against SA and green tops against India. Now, that is pitch doctoring!

  • on January 7, 2014, 17:27 GMT

    Simple - a good pitch is one that produces a result on the last day.

  • Harlequin. on January 7, 2014, 16:02 GMT

    Ah, when I read the article I knew there would be the odd comment bemoaning the fact that people complain about slow and low pitches, citing that they are just another type of pitch rather than a poor one. I am glad the comments didn't disappoint!

    To me, a good pitch is one that offers something to everyone. The ideal standard seems to be fast and bouncy on the first couple of days (if the weather allows for swing then all the better) before breaking up a bit and turning on days 4&5. Pitches which follow this general scheme are one where everyone can prosper; seamers, batsmen, spinners. The problem with slow turners are that they don't end up favouring the seamers on days 4&5, so the bowling attack becomes 1 dimensional across the test match, and this is why people end up complaining about them.

    Watching Johnson ping leather past the English ears on the same pitch where Lyon was taking wickets is much more preferable than watching Cook knock singles down to mid on, even as a Pom.

  • UnleashedAndReady on January 7, 2014, 14:27 GMT

    Well, I definitely don't know what's a good pitch, but I do what's a bad one: two teams scoring 500 each in their first things.

  • HatsforBats on January 7, 2014, 12:06 GMT

    @ Rahul_Inspired, in 1998 the Chennai curator selectively watered specific areas of the pitch (outside leg at both ends) in order to negate the effectiveness of Warne. I suspect it is practices such as these that keep the doctoring argument alive and kicking.

  • CantFindMyScreenName on January 7, 2014, 11:57 GMT

    The only farcical wicket I can name was on the recent Australian tour of India. I can't recall the venue, but it was the one where the groundskeeper admitted o preparing parts of the pitch in a different manner. Dry and crumbling wide of the stumps for the spinners, hard and flat through the middle for the seamers. I don't care if a country prepares pitches how they like. But every inch of the pitch should be prepared in the same manner. Following that one pitch in India, NZ should prepare pitches that are lush seamers, around 5 stumps wide through the centre. With the outside being roads. A side with one good quick and a good spinner could present a half grassy, bouncy pitch, and the other end a dustbowl. A wicket should be the same all over.

  • HatsforBats on January 7, 2014, 11:51 GMT

    What's a good pitch? That's easy. A good pitch offers assistance to pace & spin. How long the match lasts is up to the performance level (all finished inside 3 days, doesn't matter). A bad pitch offers nothing (3-550 on day 5 ending in a draw = bad), or is dangerous. Where I have to disagree with the author is that the notion of a pitch having pace, bounce & carry being labelled "good" is a misnomer. Each of those characteristics will assist pace, spin, & batting. In my eyes, this is what makes the gabba a great pitch.

  • ras on January 7, 2014, 11:36 GMT

    Excellent article. As u rightly said that a good pitch can be judged only retrospectively. I will add my tuppenny worth as follows:

    IF RPW (runs/wicket) is:

    1. close to 35 : Excellent pitch 2. Anywhere between 30-40 : very good pitch 3. 20-30: Bowler friendly but still good 4. 40-50: batting friendly but still good

    When RPW exceeds 50 or goes below 20, then surely the pitch has a problem. That reminds me of Ind v Pak Lahore 2007 or India v NZ 2002. I am an Indian but don't think I am blaming because my team lost. I will also berate Ind v Aus Mumbai 2004, where clarke picked up 6 for 9.

    Such pitches take the skill factor away and make cricket a lottery. I can think of an analogy from my school days. IF the exam paper is very easy or very tough, it brings all students, whether hard-working or not, to the same level. Same way a pitch like mumbai makes clarke and kumble equal, which is not correct.

  • cric_options on January 7, 2014, 11:21 GMT

    A good pitch is one in which atleast one of the 4 innings stretches to say 75-80 overs or more. If none does, it needs correction.

  • sarangsrk on January 7, 2014, 9:07 GMT

    Michael, this has to be the finest and most sensible article that I have seen from a not an ex-player. I remember watching the Mumbai test of Aus's tour of India in 2004 on TV in Melbourne with an aussie colleague. He said this pitch is a disgrace and I immediately asked him "just because Aussies can't play on it"? he said "no, because the match won't last beyond 3 days. I asked then same should be applicable for WACA too. In my opinion, a good pitch is the one which produces result and doesn't show variable bounce in first 2 days. To say that toss is crucial is also a fallacy. Its not that who wins the toss, always wins the game (Aus Ind 2013). Also, its not as if pitch would play good only on the first day and then, would not be ideal for batting. Both teams get at least one innings of scoring pitch and then, later on, second innings of showing good bowling skills to get other team out and win the match. So, if the pitch is result oriented, it is a good pitch whether its pace or turn

  • rahulStillHeaded on January 7, 2014, 6:46 GMT

    Many congratulations to the writer for clearly bringing out the biases !! I lost hope on Cricinfo but after reading your article I am really happy.

    Scoring on turning pitches on 4th-5th day in India is as challenging as seeing of the new balls at Wanderers in SA. The beauty of cricket lies in the different challenges it poses. Even more than Tennis !!

    Also people need to realize that the climate plays a huge role in pitches. So it is not always possible to produce a pitch as you like. You have to work with the nature.

    And finally not only the pitch, it is the quality of the playing teams which matters a lot too.

  • redneck on January 7, 2014, 5:54 GMT

    to me doctoring the wicket is when the groundsman has a strip already prepaired or half way through prepairing and they change its charicteristics based on instructions from higher up so the end result is a pitch that doesnt display its normal traits through no fault of the elements. ie when the home captain instructs a groundsman to remove every blade of grass with steel wool off what would have been a true bouncing wicket. an example the rolled mud sri lanka put out at the premadasa for their world cup match with aus. or the sub continent like tracks england gave us for the ashes. Nothing natural about them, england soaked in rain yet the pitch looked like the sahara!!! however not the wickets for the indian series - aus won the toss in all 4 tests and folded patheticly with india batting near faultless on the very same decks australia were made to look at sea on!

  • on January 7, 2014, 5:51 GMT

    In my opinion ( which in my opinion doesn't really matter ultimately) a good pitch is a one where surviving 1st session 1st day and 2nd new ball (1st session 2nd day?) would be hard against seamers, then it evens a bit for batters and by the 4th day it starts to spin alot more than it did on 1st day and uneven bounce creeps in around tea 4th day. but there is a limitation for what you could actually get because of the different conditions of different countries. Still it is better if home boards don't go in to extremes like dustbowls from day 1 or still green at tea 5th day ( even if they do I don't mind though because most the time it will end with a result) .

  • flickspin on January 7, 2014, 5:31 GMT

    i want to set up a top end league in northern australia during the dry season(australian winter)

    australian players have bonus of getting to know foreign conditions by playing in india with ipl and england with english county cricket.

    i would say half of all australia first class cricketers spend the australian winter in india or england

    the teams would be cairns,darwin, alice springs and broome for players who carnt get ipl contracts or county cricket contracts

    cairns would be a extreme version of the gabba, darwin would be green aswell, alice springs would spin like india, and broome would have a strong breeze and bounce.

    i would also include 2 teams from new zealand north island(auckland and wellington) and south islands(canterbury and otago) to the australian first class comp.

    this way australia play on green tops and new zealand play in australian conditions and new zealand standard would improve.

    i love the different pitches from around the world,

  • flickspin on January 7, 2014, 5:17 GMT

    the difference in pitches makes cricket great

    the soil, the grass,the climate, the roller.

    each pitch should pride itself on its uniqueness.drop in pitches take the uniqueness out of world cricket.

    i was once told that groundsmen would be highly offended if the home team captain requested a doctored pitch to help the home team win the series.thats in australia anyway.groundsmen take pride in thier pitches. every pitch in australia is unique as the cricket moves the country

    gabba has bounce, adelaide is good for batting and spins, perth is fast and bouncy apparently good for batting when your in, melbourne slows up on day 4 & 5 getting caught in front of the wicket, sydney good for batting and spin bowling, hobart green with a bit of movement,

    india has as many different climates as australia, they should aim to make thier pitches as unique as australia it would help thier cricketers when they travel abroad.i enjoy watching india at home with 2 spinners plenty of men around the bat

  • Rahul_Inspired on January 7, 2014, 4:36 GMT

    Ever since I began to follow the espncricinfo, I have been waiting for this kind of an article. These " Doctored Pitch" talks have become a routine in recent times. IMO, it has been viably concentrated against India. When 4-0 thrashing was done to Aus by India, almost every match day there were the talks of Doctoring (by the frustrated away team fans). If you're a good batsman or a good bowler, U ought to perform on every pitches. U cant live on excuses all the time. As the author said, both the teams have the chance to see the pitch before picking the team both the captains knew the pitch early enough to perform in it. It is just a matter of performing after all. Having said that, IMO, any pitch which has the all the elements so that every good player, who plays on it can show the skills (batting/bowling) can be considered as a good pitch. It jus the matter of using the pitch to your advantage.

  • on January 7, 2014, 3:59 GMT

    @Michael, you have hit the nail on the head.This is one of the most significant articles i have read in a long time and it should serve as an eye opener for all cricket fans and journalists alike. It is always easy to dismiss pitches which are slow and start turning square from day one and say that the measure of the greatness of a batsman is measured by how he plays on bouncy pitches and seaming tracks. Subcontinental pitches have often borne the brunt of the attack from Australian/English media. There is also a great deal on skill involved in tackling spinners on tracks which turn significantly from day one.Every country poses it's own sets of challenges and it would unfair to regulate or standardize pitches in all test playing nations.Also as i near the end of my comment i would like to add that whether it is a doctored pitch or not, both the teams get to bat on the same surface.

  • Rahulbose on January 7, 2014, 3:51 GMT

    Its a well known standard, must have decent bounce with enough early help for new ball bowlers to make batting in first innings a challenge, should ease out on days 2-3 and take good turn and uneven bounce on days 4-5. The outfield also is important and must get good value for well timed shots while the boundary should be large enough to avoid miss-hit sixes. Basing your pitch evaluation on how many wickets or how many centuries will make the analysis dependent on quality of players, for example if Imran Tahir is the only spinner in one team then the pitch can be turning square but the stats will not show it.

  • on January 7, 2014, 3:50 GMT

    A good cricket pitch should always have a result, or an epic draw.

  • TMS8137 on January 7, 2014, 2:17 GMT

    IMO I think the only bad pitches are the roads that we usually see at St.Johns and at the Nagpur test when England toured India. As you rightly mentioned playing spin on a deteriorating track is the same as playing pace on a green track. The skills might be different but the application required is the same. I have nothing against matches which finish on day 3. I just feel its the administrators along with their contracted journos who put up a fight over the loss of ticket sales. Its because of people like them that the majority feels Test cricket is dying. All people want to see are hundred upon hundreds. A quick 5-for is just as impressive to watch as a quick 100 and has more impact on the game. Which goes to show that no matter which country you're in, if the batsmen can't play it means the pitch is bad.

  • IndianEagle on January 7, 2014, 1:56 GMT

    well written neutral artice. Good team will perform on any types of pitches whether it is spinning, seaming or slow-low pitch. One team cannot force results to end after tea in day 4 (very rarely, great team can force) bcz it depends on quality of opposition. Traditionally eng, aus and SA are poor players of spin and they won series very rarely against subcontinent team in subcontinent so want seaming conditions. With the help of their media, writers they made cricketting world to believe that seaming wickets are proper wickets! But the fact is not that!

  • on January 7, 2014, 1:16 GMT

    Well written ! I do not know whether this is possible but there ought to be a universal pact to have all professional pitches prepared to an agreed standard. I am not sure what it should .. Right now the pitches in all countries act differently which most of the time seem to favor the home team. They are either to soft or too hard. In many instances they keep to low Some of them offer too much swing . This does not seem to be good for the game.

  • on January 7, 2014, 1:03 GMT

    Thanks for looking into the notion that spin friendly pitches are farcical and that Pacy wickets are the way. There is just too much bias all over the media... well done for allowing common sense to prevail and this has been a brilliant article!

  • IndianEagle on January 7, 2014, 0:57 GMT

    since eng and aus are developed countries, playing cricket more than 100 years and having skilled writers, more internet users (past) they mandated the unwritten rules like seaming pitches are great pitches. Of the 8 top teams 4 team's pitches are seam friendly and 4 team's pitches are spin friendly, so good batsman should perform well in bounce-and-spin, slow-and-low, seam-and-swinging conditions. Green top batsman should prove their abilty in spinning low pitches from very 1st day as like green top writers want asian teams to perform on green pitches. Bradman is best ever bat, warne is best ever bow are their powerful media propaganda.

  • .Raina on January 7, 2014, 0:52 GMT

    I feel every pitch needs to have a character, and the batsmen/bowlers need to adjust depending on that character. Good Batsmen (Bradman, Sobers, Gavaskar, Sachin, Lara, Ponting, Clarke) are able to perform well nearly everywhere, and so do good bowlers (Murali, Warne, McGrath, Lillee, Steyn, Hadlee). <p/> There isn't anything like a perfect pitch, but yes there could be bad pitches. Pitches could be bouncy, seaming, spinning or whatever; but if the batsman/bowler is not sure if the ball is going to come-in/move-out and/or bounce upto shoulder height/die out just on the toe-level (especially on the first two days), there is something wrong with the pitch.<p/> Pitches also tend to behave very differently depending on the day/weather around e.g. WACA, Dunedin, Lords... A bouncy seaming pitch should help a good spinner too. A Windy Auckland could even put a bowler like Steyn out of rythm.<p/> We don't want to see Cricket go the Hockey way,and play on artificial similarly behaving pitches!!

  • on January 7, 2014, 0:34 GMT

    Basing an opinion of a pitch one results is just a cop out for people unable to wrap their heads around anything more than the basics of a game. A good pitch is fairly simple to sum up. It offers batsmen, fast bowlers and spin bowlers alike something they can be happy with. The gabba to me is the perfect example. Bat well and you can score a lot of runs. Fast bowlers can get something from day 1 to 5 and spinners are effective on day 1. What is left then is simply a matter of the teams pitting their skills and concentration to determine the outcome.

  • on January 7, 2014, 0:04 GMT

    A good Test pitch is one that assures 5 days of gate receipts.

    Welcome to commercial realities.

  • on January 6, 2014, 23:58 GMT

    A good Test pitch is one that assures 5 days of gate receipts.

    Welcome to commercial reality.

  • Not_Another_Keybored_Expert on January 6, 2014, 23:44 GMT

    Michael if you are trying to say that the pitches in india were not doctored for the Aus series than you are kidding yourself, they were dustbowls that were prepared in response to the greentop that greeted India in Perth, That is a fact.

  • litchfield on January 6, 2014, 23:33 GMT

    I don't think its too hard to identify "doctoring" i.e when a wicket's usual historical character is significantly altered to counter a specific opposition.

  • on January 6, 2014, 23:32 GMT

    Test cricket is meant to be exactly that, a test. A test of your abilities in foreign conditions, a test of your ability to adapt and even flourish in in totally different conditions to what you are used to. That makes it a test. If all pitches were the same what would be the use of touring? Just look at how Saeed Ajmal adapted in SA as bowler to test his true greatness (I am a SA fan from Johannesburg). He passed the test.

    The only requirement I would have is that it is not a road which makes it impossible to take wickets. It should have something for GOOD(not average) bowlers, and reward GOOD (not average) batsmen. It should also test temperament not just skill.

  • Killerjools on January 6, 2014, 23:12 GMT

    I've always hated blaming the wicket. It's the same wicket for both teams. These guys are professional cricketers who get paid for playing the game. They are supposed to be able to adjust to the conditions no matter what they are.

    While on the subject, I thought the Perth wicket (I am an Aussie) was a complete and utter disgrace. A wicket should not have cracks in it that you could go abseiling down.

    If we are going to blame the pitch when we lose, then we should be giving the pitch the credit when we win. So a wicket we lose on is "bad", but that same wicket is "good" for the winning team.

    I would think a good wicket is one which doesn't fall to pieces.

  • on January 6, 2014, 23:06 GMT

    Excellent article. So often when people talk about 'doctored pitches' they really mean 'ones we don't play well on'. India and Australia probably have the most extreme pitches in the world, and very rarely is either country ever defeated at home. And how often do we hear Australians and Indians (including the players) describing each others pitches as unfair but ignoring how alien it is for visitors to play on their own pitches.

    The other question is what is a doctored pitch? I hear people say 'one that doesn't play like its natural state'. But none do. Pitches are relayed, replanted, covered, watered, rolled, cut. The timing and regularity the groundsman does these things drastically changes the pitch, and all pitches are 'prepared'. If the WACA's groundsman stopped replanting and watering the pitch and left it to the baking sun it would look Indian in about a month. Look at the dustbowls in WI which were once the fastest pitches in the world (WACA excepted).

  • Bishop on January 6, 2014, 22:59 GMT

    @WheresTheEmpire I'm sorry that not every cricket article in the next three months will be about how great and magnificent the Australian cricket team are. But, y'know, for some of us, our interest in cricket extends beyond who won the Ashes.

  • McGorium on January 6, 2014, 21:50 GMT

    There are no poor pitches, only poor cricketers (and poor viewers/journalists). I think a pitch is considered poor when the away side struggles (or appears to do so) more than the other. Generally, watching a team struggle against (say) Kumble in India, only to have India destroy their spinners would attract complaints of pitch-doctoring. Further, given the dominant status the anglo-saxons (I use the term loosely, to avoid implying race/racism) have had on cricket over the last century, the style of cricket played in Eng/Aus/NZ/SAF became the blue-print of what cricket should look like: fast bowling on day 1-3, spinners on day 4-5 (especially on covered wickets). Consequently, sub-continent sides getting bundled out for 100-odd on Day 1 at Perth was indicative of their lack of batting ability, whereas Aus getting bundled out for the same score on day 1 on a turner in Mumbai was indicative of the pitch. Admitting incompetence is hard, and more so when you seem to do well otherwise.

  • on January 6, 2014, 19:55 GMT

    IMO a good pitch is 1-A test match decides on the last day 2-Both teams score at least 200+ or 250+

  • Bonehead_maz on January 6, 2014, 19:51 GMT

    I'd like to add to this debate the element of luck. I'd like to mention this referencing the recent Perth pitch. Although it can be reasonably assumed Perth will be hot and dry in December, it must be difficult to prepare a pitch that will be "good" given the blistering dry heat that actually occurred ? If there were enough moisture in the pitch at the toss, for it to last without large cracks occurring, a match there might be conceivably complete on 2nd day. If on other hand a match starts with a good pitch and lasts five days........ well we all saw it on the 4th day. It's pure luck that those cracks all went down the pitch, a few across and they may well have had to call the match off ?

  • fguy on January 6, 2014, 19:33 GMT

    finally, some good sense prevails in a cricket writer. well done Michael. the warped perception that spin-friendly wickets are somehow bad/unsporting & only pace-friendly wickets are good/sporting is bandied by the foreign journos & many indians parrot the same. Many deride the Indian pitches but I think they are very sporting. Pitches here allow batsmen of all kinds (grafters, stroke makers, etc) to flourish, pacers pick up wickets & so do spinners... if you're a good seam or swing bowler you will pick wickets like steyn, mcgrath, kapil dev, zaheer khan have shown. & good spinners of all kinds will also take wickets. Good batsmen can also express themselves. The pitches allow even outside team's batsmen to settle in so even if they've never played on them before it doesn't take very long for them to adjust to it. So they give everyone - even visiting teams of all kinds - a chance. those lamenting the fate of fast bowlers in India should do the same for spinners in their own country.

  • Bonehead_maz on January 6, 2014, 19:26 GMT

    "I personally believe home teams are entitled to prepare pitches to suit their strengths. It is up to the visitors to select a team that can cope with those conditions." By definition, all home pitches should suit a home team without preparation that's any different from how it was prepared while the players learned to play there ? Unfortunately for visiting teams, they usually can't change their squad when the conditions have been changed AFTER the team has been sent. Like say in England 1956 (unquestionable pitch doctoring). Certainly can't change team after the toss (but can pitch, Ali Bacher). I'm an Australian and will categorically say Sydney was NOT a good pitch. If Sydney had have been very hot and lasted into the 5th day "grassing over the canyons" may well have temporarily replaced "papering over the cracks" in the blogging vernacular. To be fair, Sydney's pitch hasn't been good for quite some time, so it was in that sense a "traditional" Sydney wicket.

  • on January 6, 2014, 18:05 GMT

    The pitch at Kingsmead in the recent SA/India test was described by Graeme Smith as "an Indian pitch"! Obviously he felt that it was prepared to assist the visitors. Good point the author made about the influence of the toss. In the ashes series, Aus won the toss four times and Eng once. In the SA/India series India won both times. To counter any influence of the toss I feel that the first three hours of a test, or at least the first session, should assist the fast bowlers and on day 5 there should be some assistance for the spinners. Obviously hard wickets with good carry make good viewing with a guaranteed result. I am happy to say that test cricket has become more "viewable" that way.

  • RAGHAVER on January 6, 2014, 18:04 GMT

    @WheresTheEmpire Michael just wanted to provoke a discussion on the idea of good pitches in Test Matches and to tell his readers to desist from the idea of calling the match as a farce just because of the pitches and to focus more on contrasting styles of cricket on different pitches which is so enjoyable to watch.In my opinion,any pitch that does not provide a result in 5 days or when you could foresee a match finishing in less than 3 days because even the bowlers are not sure what the pitch will do.When the batsman's mind is adrift from his ability and technique and the challenges offered by the bowler and some characteristic feature of the pitch which should define it like slowness,bouncy AND has to fight for his life due to cracks or what not that is a bad pitch. Likewise a bowler should have at least some idea what his ball would do.

  • Deuce03 on January 6, 2014, 17:52 GMT

    I'm not sure about the Oval this summer being an example of a particularly good pitch; while the finish was (until the very end) exciting and there were lots of runs and wickets, there was relatively little in it for the bowlers and the last two innings were limited-overs-style thrashings trying to contrive a result.

    On the general subjectI would say a good pitch is one that offers relatively equal assistance to bowlers (of any type) and batsmen, which breaks up and offers uneven bounce from about the end of the third day onward. Until recently I'd have said I'd rather see the pitch give assistance to the bowlers than the bat, but in the last couple of years it seems balance has largely been restored on that count anyway.

  • TheCricketEmpireStrikesBack on January 6, 2014, 16:41 GMT

    So, after one of the most amazing turnarounds in Test cricket, all this author can do is reprise an old tune about what some in the media at some stage in the past called doctored pitches.

    If it wasn't so funny, it would be sad.

  • No featured comments at the moment.

  • TheCricketEmpireStrikesBack on January 6, 2014, 16:41 GMT

    So, after one of the most amazing turnarounds in Test cricket, all this author can do is reprise an old tune about what some in the media at some stage in the past called doctored pitches.

    If it wasn't so funny, it would be sad.

  • Deuce03 on January 6, 2014, 17:52 GMT

    I'm not sure about the Oval this summer being an example of a particularly good pitch; while the finish was (until the very end) exciting and there were lots of runs and wickets, there was relatively little in it for the bowlers and the last two innings were limited-overs-style thrashings trying to contrive a result.

    On the general subjectI would say a good pitch is one that offers relatively equal assistance to bowlers (of any type) and batsmen, which breaks up and offers uneven bounce from about the end of the third day onward. Until recently I'd have said I'd rather see the pitch give assistance to the bowlers than the bat, but in the last couple of years it seems balance has largely been restored on that count anyway.

  • RAGHAVER on January 6, 2014, 18:04 GMT

    @WheresTheEmpire Michael just wanted to provoke a discussion on the idea of good pitches in Test Matches and to tell his readers to desist from the idea of calling the match as a farce just because of the pitches and to focus more on contrasting styles of cricket on different pitches which is so enjoyable to watch.In my opinion,any pitch that does not provide a result in 5 days or when you could foresee a match finishing in less than 3 days because even the bowlers are not sure what the pitch will do.When the batsman's mind is adrift from his ability and technique and the challenges offered by the bowler and some characteristic feature of the pitch which should define it like slowness,bouncy AND has to fight for his life due to cracks or what not that is a bad pitch. Likewise a bowler should have at least some idea what his ball would do.

  • on January 6, 2014, 18:05 GMT

    The pitch at Kingsmead in the recent SA/India test was described by Graeme Smith as "an Indian pitch"! Obviously he felt that it was prepared to assist the visitors. Good point the author made about the influence of the toss. In the ashes series, Aus won the toss four times and Eng once. In the SA/India series India won both times. To counter any influence of the toss I feel that the first three hours of a test, or at least the first session, should assist the fast bowlers and on day 5 there should be some assistance for the spinners. Obviously hard wickets with good carry make good viewing with a guaranteed result. I am happy to say that test cricket has become more "viewable" that way.

  • Bonehead_maz on January 6, 2014, 19:26 GMT

    "I personally believe home teams are entitled to prepare pitches to suit their strengths. It is up to the visitors to select a team that can cope with those conditions." By definition, all home pitches should suit a home team without preparation that's any different from how it was prepared while the players learned to play there ? Unfortunately for visiting teams, they usually can't change their squad when the conditions have been changed AFTER the team has been sent. Like say in England 1956 (unquestionable pitch doctoring). Certainly can't change team after the toss (but can pitch, Ali Bacher). I'm an Australian and will categorically say Sydney was NOT a good pitch. If Sydney had have been very hot and lasted into the 5th day "grassing over the canyons" may well have temporarily replaced "papering over the cracks" in the blogging vernacular. To be fair, Sydney's pitch hasn't been good for quite some time, so it was in that sense a "traditional" Sydney wicket.

  • fguy on January 6, 2014, 19:33 GMT

    finally, some good sense prevails in a cricket writer. well done Michael. the warped perception that spin-friendly wickets are somehow bad/unsporting & only pace-friendly wickets are good/sporting is bandied by the foreign journos & many indians parrot the same. Many deride the Indian pitches but I think they are very sporting. Pitches here allow batsmen of all kinds (grafters, stroke makers, etc) to flourish, pacers pick up wickets & so do spinners... if you're a good seam or swing bowler you will pick wickets like steyn, mcgrath, kapil dev, zaheer khan have shown. & good spinners of all kinds will also take wickets. Good batsmen can also express themselves. The pitches allow even outside team's batsmen to settle in so even if they've never played on them before it doesn't take very long for them to adjust to it. So they give everyone - even visiting teams of all kinds - a chance. those lamenting the fate of fast bowlers in India should do the same for spinners in their own country.

  • Bonehead_maz on January 6, 2014, 19:51 GMT

    I'd like to add to this debate the element of luck. I'd like to mention this referencing the recent Perth pitch. Although it can be reasonably assumed Perth will be hot and dry in December, it must be difficult to prepare a pitch that will be "good" given the blistering dry heat that actually occurred ? If there were enough moisture in the pitch at the toss, for it to last without large cracks occurring, a match there might be conceivably complete on 2nd day. If on other hand a match starts with a good pitch and lasts five days........ well we all saw it on the 4th day. It's pure luck that those cracks all went down the pitch, a few across and they may well have had to call the match off ?

  • on January 6, 2014, 19:55 GMT

    IMO a good pitch is 1-A test match decides on the last day 2-Both teams score at least 200+ or 250+

  • McGorium on January 6, 2014, 21:50 GMT

    There are no poor pitches, only poor cricketers (and poor viewers/journalists). I think a pitch is considered poor when the away side struggles (or appears to do so) more than the other. Generally, watching a team struggle against (say) Kumble in India, only to have India destroy their spinners would attract complaints of pitch-doctoring. Further, given the dominant status the anglo-saxons (I use the term loosely, to avoid implying race/racism) have had on cricket over the last century, the style of cricket played in Eng/Aus/NZ/SAF became the blue-print of what cricket should look like: fast bowling on day 1-3, spinners on day 4-5 (especially on covered wickets). Consequently, sub-continent sides getting bundled out for 100-odd on Day 1 at Perth was indicative of their lack of batting ability, whereas Aus getting bundled out for the same score on day 1 on a turner in Mumbai was indicative of the pitch. Admitting incompetence is hard, and more so when you seem to do well otherwise.

  • Bishop on January 6, 2014, 22:59 GMT

    @WheresTheEmpire I'm sorry that not every cricket article in the next three months will be about how great and magnificent the Australian cricket team are. But, y'know, for some of us, our interest in cricket extends beyond who won the Ashes.