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Siddhartha Vaidyanathan in Sydney
January 1, 2008
Search for Tom Parker on the internet and you get 17,100 results, most of which involve Elvis Presley's manager. The Tom Parker that you will encounter at the Sydney Cricket Ground, though, is more focussed on a rock and roll of a different kind: hammering in the rocky surface before rolling it evenly.
The 22-yards that Parker tends has been making a bit of news of late. It's excited Brett Lee and prompted Brad Hogg to let out a grimace. Words like abrasive and rough are being replaced by lively and green. Both captains thought it was a "good wicket", suggesting that there could be a bit in there for everyone. When a batsman and bowler call a pitch "good" you have something exciting brewing.
"I tend to leave a bit more grass on the pitches these days than years gone by," said Parker, who's been the head groundsman here for close to a decade. "This pitch has probably got a bit more grass on it than we had in 2004. I feel it will probably have a bit more bounce in it. I'm just trying to keep a bit of pace in the pitch, trying to get a bit more carry to the keeper, and more consistent bounce throughout the match.
"In years gone by, it has probably played a little slow and a little low. It's going to seam around a bit on day one and on day two it should flatten out a bit more. By day four and five it starts to turn. To me that's a cricket pitch. It should be changing every day."
India wouldn't mind a surface that's tending towards the bowlers. Look back at India's overseas wins in the recent past - in Nottingham, Johannesburg and Kingston - and you have triumphs being engineered on lively surfaces. Rahul Dravid made an interesting point after the victory in Trent Bridge. "I've always felt we've done well when we've had the opportunity to take 20 wickets - we might lose the odd game but we also win games ... Sometimes we're put on the back foot early on good pitches, when we struggle to take 20 wickets."
While the batsmen thrive on flat pitches at home, they've not able to capitalise on hard surfaces abroad. Cape Town last year, when they collapsed for 169 in the second innings, was a classic instance of imploding on a benign track but there have been other instances of botching up chances in Lord's and Melbourne as well. Given a choice, India might just prefer life on the pitch; not only will it enhance their bowlers chances but also offer their strokeplayers some pace to play with.
Kumble, in his first press conference as captain, had made it clear that he wanted to "take the pitch and conditions out of the equation". He reiterated the point here, adding that he "doesn't want to worry too much about that". The quick outfield will bring a smile. It means India's batsmen can manage fours instead of having to rely on twos and threes. It may also mean a slightly better fielding effort, an area of their cricket which was exposed at the MCG.
"It's more to do with thinking and being a bit positive," Kumble said. "If the mind is thinking positive, running between the wickets and fielding will be different."
Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is an assistant editor at CricinfoFeeds: Siddhartha Vaidyanathan
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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