June 7, 2014

A geological game changer

If you want to dominate world cricket, you better import bits of the country you want to acclimatise to

These cracks will soon be filled by soil imported from India © Getty Images

In a chaotic world, sport offers us certainty and comfort. Like science, it is built on enduring rules and theories (although, unlike science, it doesn't make you wear a lab coat or laugh at you if you ask why Schrodinger's cat wasn't wearing a bell on its collar.)

So what are the universal laws of sport? Well, there's the Football Dance Correlation, which states that a nation's footballing ability is in direct proportion to the sexiness of its national dance. Hence we hear a lot about Brazil's samba football but England's morris dancing football rarely gets a mention.

Cricket fans also hold certain half-truths to be self-evident. We know for a fact that Indian batsmen turn into batsman-shaped jellies if asked to play outside Asia and that they always, always lose on a bouncy pitch or a green pitch.*

We also know that Australians venturing to India for a Test series will approach it as though they were going on a Mars expedition, filling their baggage allowance with a lifetime's supply of baked beans, Vegemite-flavoured energy bars and fizzy, beer-flavoured water, and that confronted with pitches on which the ball spins sideways, they will cope as well as a herd of lumbering triceratops trying to cross a tar pit on a moonless night.

So to help prepare the Aussie batsmen for Indian underfoot conditions, it was this week announced that Cricket Australia will be importing several tonnes of India. The soil won't be available immediately, though. Thanks to Australia's stringent immigration policy, it will have to spend six months in a holding centre in Darwin while Interior Ministry officials interrogate it about why it didn't seek asylum in Sri Lanka, Indonesia or the Antarctic.

Having cleared immigration, the soil will be used to recreate an Indian wicket at the National Cricket Centre in Brisbane. The pitch will be laid in the middle of a nearby greyhound track, which could lead to problems, greyhounds being notoriously keen on chasing both small mammals (look out David Warner) and spherical objects. I can foresee many a pre-tour training session being disrupted as Shane Watson lumbers round an oval track in pursuit of the flyer from trap 4 that ran off which his ball.

But this tactic of importing bits of the country you want to acclimatise to might catch on. After their last not-entirely-successful tour of England, perhaps the BCCI should consider a similar geological venture.

To prepare for this summer's jaunt, they could import 22 yards of finest English turf to recreate the conditions of Headingley, Old Trafford or Lord's. And for the full effect, they could employ someone to empty a bucket of rainwater over it every half an hour and have the Indian players practise squelching up and down in their wellies, holding broken umbrellas while trying not to be blown over by a giant fan set to "North Sea Breeze".

* Apart from Johannesburg 2006, Nottingham 2007, Perth 2008, Hamilton 2009, and Durban 2010.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England. He tweets here