Peter Roebuck
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Former captain of Somerset; author of It Never Rains, Sometimes I Forgot to Laugh and other books

All hail juicy pitches

Australian wickets have been denatured and characterless for far too long. Let's hope Melbourne produces a track like the one in Perth

Peter Roebuck

December 22, 2010

Comments: 56 | Text size: A | A

Brad Haddin dragged into his stumps against Chris Tremlett, Australia v England, 3rd Test, Perth, 3rd day, December 18, 2010
Test cricket cannot afford dreary pitches, in Australia or elsewhere © Getty Images
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Series/Tournaments: England tour of Australia
Teams: England

Only in cricket can the pitch attract so much attention. A darts board is a darts board. Rugby and soccer fields vary little and home advantage is more often due to crowd support than changing conditions. Seas and golf courses have their local winds and ways, but it does not take long for competitors to adjust, and in any case they are mostly at the mercy of nature.

Probably tennis is the nearest comparison to cricket. Tennis courts vary a lot. They can be hard, slow or grassy, and each demands different skills. Some surfaces favour a lot of spin, others smile upon power, some give net players a better chance, others encourage baseline play. Inevitably most players are more comfortable on one surface than another. Accordingly Davis Cup hosts can choose a surface that suits their style of play.

No sooner had the Perth Test finished than eyes and ears turned towards the MCG and the supposedly dastardly deeds of its curator. Before a night had passed, the aforementioned and hitherto blameless gentleman has been accused of cooking the books, preparing a green top, changing the track, moving the cameras, and all manner of other infractions calculated to tip the balance in favour of the home team.

Naturally England was doing the accusing; though the players held their tongues (they had not seen the wicket or spoken to the groundsman, aspects that had not restrained the more forthright members of their media). England's paranoia was founded more upon self-analysis than any mere fact or figure. At a critical moment in its own Ashes history the game's inventors and self-appointed trustees had discovered a disease called Fusarium, a fungus that by some miracle of fate provided particular assistance to the bowling of Derek Underwood, the home nation's match-winner. Locals talk about this uninvited guest with a conviction later detected in Justin Langer as he described how his bat handle broke in Hobart at the very moment the ball passed by, thereby creating the wholly misleading impression that he had edged it.

More recently, in 2005 as a matter of fact, the Poms left the Oval pitch so open to the sun that it burnt yellow, became parched and began crumbling before a ball had been bowled. Of course this was part of a crafty plan to ensure that the match produced a result. Had the Australians won the toss and included a spinner the series might have gone the other way, but that was a risk the hosts were willing to take.

As a rule Australians are a bit less inclined towards contrivance. One of the differences between the nations - apart obviously from the fact that Australians are more literate and Englishmen more sports-obsessed (they even invent games suitable for pubs - hence skittles, darts and shove halfpenny) - is that Australians are mostly confronting by word whereas Englishmen tend to rely on deed (Bodyline was another instance) As a traveller between these nations I admit an enthusiasm for Bodyline and toleration of the 2009 Oval pitch, and a suspicion about Fusarium, a blight that does not seem to have struck again anywhere else in the world. Incidentally Australia too has it blights, including can toads, speeds cops and parking police.

Not that Australia can plead complete innocence in the matter of pitch preparation. States routinely prepare tracks designed to promote results. For years Queensland produced green tops at the Gabba and relied on their experienced batting and strong pace bowling to take the spoils. Nowadays Tasmania have tried to inject life into the notoriously unreceptive deck at Bellerive Oval. Tired of docile decks, NSW recently urged the curator at the SCG to leave lots of grass on the pitch for the Shield match against Tasmania. The contest was over before tea on the third day.

Test pitches are another matter. Over the years series in Australia have provided a superb examination of skills. Perth was famous for its pace and bounce, Brisbane was green on the opening morning and a batting wicket thereafter. Adelaide was flat on the first few days but started to wear towards the end, Sydney favoured spin and the MCG was unpredictable. In other words every aspect of team strength was tested before the issue had been decided.

Of late, though, the pitches had lost their individuality. Perth had become tame, the Gabba had lost its edge, Melbourne's drop-in pitch was sleepier than a teenager at breakfast time. Adelaide too had lost is sting. Various explanations were offered, including orders from CEOs anxious to placate TV companies, sponsors, treasurers and guests; the tiredness of the squares; and the game's leaning towards batsmen. Cricket has long been a game run by batsmen for batsmen but the case has become stronger in the last 10 years.

Whatever the reason, Test cricket suffered. Australian pitches had lost their distinctive flavour as compared with each other and the rest of the world. If anything, English pitches were bouncier in 2009. Part of the reason English cricket is rising is that puddings are nowadays reserved for supper. Accordingly England's batsmen are better able to deal with all except the steep bounce provided in Johannesburg, and last week in Perth.

Test cricket has a fight on its hands and cannot afford the luxury of dreary pitches in Australia or anywhere else. A hard core of supporters might continue to attend a match doomed to a stalemate by stumps on the first day but it'd be hard to convince youngsters or the half-interested that the visit was worth the bother. The latest series between India and Sri Lanka was a high-scoring farce that did nothing to advance the game and a lot to improve averages. Cricket would be a better game if averages were ignored. Instead they are revered. In no other game are statistics held in such high esteem. Cricket suffers more from its mathematicians even than its romantics. At least the rankings compiled by the ICC attempt to put the numbers in context.

Cricket would be a better game if averages were ignored. Instead they are revered. In no other game are statistics held in such high esteem. Cricket suffers more from its mathematicians even than its romantics

Whereas one-day matches can be entertaining on any surface, balance is needed to sustain interest in a five-day encounter. Otherwise it might as well be consigned to the dustbin. No one in the right mind - a tally that includes a surprising number of statisticians - is interested in a collection of cold figures. It's the story that counts, the human journey, the struggle for supremacy. Dull pitches produce dull players, dull matches and dull coverage. Before long, interest fades. As Abraham Lincoln is supposed to have observed, "You can fool some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time but you cannot fool all the people all of the time."

By producing insipid tracks Test cricket was signing its own death warrant. Cricket cannot be so reckless as to scorn its audience. Spectators are not obliged to come. History might mean nothing to them. They pay their rupees and rands by choice, attracted by the names and nations taking part, to the promise of a meaningful battle fought to the end between forces with a roughly equal chance of taking the spoils. All the more reason to welcome the livelier pitches provided in Adelaide and Perth and to condemn the lifeless deck produced at the Gabba.

The new man in Adelaide dared to leave a bit of grass on the pitch on the opening day and may have felt pangs of regret as the hosts lost three wickets in 10 minutes. But first-day pitches are supposed to be a handful. Opening batting has been in decline because its unique requirements have been rendered well-nigh redundant. It had become a doddle.

Suddenly courage, tenacity and judgement mattered. Suddenly tension attended ever ball as the English speedsters whipped the ball about. Everyone understood that the batsmen needed to hang on till lunch. They did not make it and England seized the initiative. Compared to the pale substitute seen in recent campaigns, the cricket was compelling.

Perth was also a corker of a pitch. To his credit Graham Gooch praised the groundsman after the match. Here was a man capable of seeing the bigger picture. It's always easy to pass around compliments in victory but his team had been beaten. Gooch rejoiced in the pace and bounce and relished the struggle between bat and ball. Perhaps it took him back to his heyday, when openers had to play late and grit their teeth, when defensive technique was of paramount importance.

Now the show moves to Melbourne and 100,000 people will pack into the MCG, eager to see a stirring contest between two proud teams. It is a mouth-watering prospect. Over the next few days the 22 yards to be used on Boxing Day will be subjected to more inspections than a security detail in a dictatorship.

Doubtless Ricky Ponting and chums are keen to play on another fast track, but that might not be so easy. In any case Australia needs to prove they can win on any surface. Ponting needs to prove he can manage a varied attack as well as a four-pronged pace outfit. The main thing is that the pitch offers bounce and gives bowlers a chance. It is possible for two well-matched sides to play an exciting game on a dozy pitch, but it's much harder.

Peter Roebuck is a former captain of Somerset and the author, most recently, of In It to Win It

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Posted by Meety on (December 24, 2010, 2:11 GMT)

@Ska Rthik - no problems with spinning pitches - but get some more bounce. Low bounce = boring cricket. Why - because batsmen can just get on the front & swat. Horizontal bat shots are almost eliminated. Pace bowlers lack menace. Conditions skewed to batsmen too much. As far as your other point re: home advantage, you need to cut thru the hype. WACA is naturally a fast bouncy pitch, Centurian the same - that's their natural characteristics. Typically Oz pitches are not adjusted to disadvantage a touring team - throughout the 80s the Windies pace quartet were served up perfect conditions everywhere except at the SCG, which although they would lose there, M Marshall still would take plenty of wickets. For the good of the game there needs to be balance & sub-continantal pitches don't have it, that's why the #1 ranked side got rolled over easy on Day 1 - a big flaw in their overall make up. Hope they "bounce" back - but I don't think so.

Posted by CustomKid on (December 23, 2010, 22:48 GMT)

Exactly Azzaman, 3 days of fast bowlers being punished and then the spinners come in and clean up. Good batsmen will make runs under any conditions, however the quick bowlers should be given some assistance on days 1 and 2 or they're just making up the numbers. If there is bounce it will aid good spin bowlers, particularly those who have a top spinner or over spinner. Brisbane is a great pitch as it really does give everyone a chance. The quicks get bounce and seam, the spinners get turn and bounce, and good batsmen get value for shots.

I think the main point is that pitches in the subcontinent 95% of the time don't offer quick bowlers any assistance at any stage of the game. Hence most of India's bowlers average 30+ per wicket. It's fine to offer turn on your home tracks but it would be nice for the quicks (including your own) to get some assistance early on. The batsman get ample help on days 1-3 but it appears the massive Indian population like runs over wickets.

Posted by azzaman333 on (December 23, 2010, 9:41 GMT)

@Ska Rthik You may have heard of a great leg spin bowler named Shane Warne. He says that if a pitch seams, it will also spin. I'd much rather the curators choose to prepare a green wicket than a dustbowl, since the former will give assistance to all bowlers, while the latter will only give assistance to spinners, and only after day 3.

Posted by _NEUTRAL_Fan_ on (December 23, 2010, 1:55 GMT)

@ram5160. You shouldn't look at such superficial things. Its not the draw ratio thats the main concern but instead the balance between bat and ball. The main reason for less draws now aren't due to lively pitches. Its due to faster scoring rates and wickets which fall mainly under scoreboard pressure. Lets face it, 2 teams scoring at around 5 an over throughout is still dull since there is clearly, clearly an imbalance between bat and ball. I rather watch a hard fought draw where the batsmen have to combat a moving or turning ball than to watch a result match where one team scores 500 at nearly 5 an over!

Posted by Meety on (December 23, 2010, 0:08 GMT)

@ findadiat - the WACA in its former glory, offered extreme pace & bounce for fast bowling, but would degrade with the biggest cracks in Test cricket, which could help the spinners if needed. The problem is primarily taht most pitches in the world are losing the sting they once had & that often lead to high scoring batathons ending in dreary boredom. Fast bouncy pitches create a more exciting form of cricket. Also, whilst I see you commenting, I didn't get a chance to respond to your lame UDRS comments previously. Fact is that Hot Spot has been brilliant in this series, & is undoubtably the best most conclusive technology there is. No howlers in this series so far. @Andrew_S, true - but you only have to watch a thread on SRT v Lara, or Warne v Murali to see what Roebuck was getting at. @ Quazar - there is certainly a place for turning tracks, however, it will only lead those nations to be great at home & poor away. The cricket is not as entertaining either (still good though).

Posted by Valerio_DiBattista on (December 22, 2010, 23:39 GMT)

Outstanding article Peter. I thought the Perth Test match was a breath of fresh air. For once, the bowlers took centre stage, as the batsmen were forced to earn their runs right throughout the match. What a relief and a joy to watch and follow. I could not agree more that Test matches the world over are played on pathetically batsman orientated pitches. I think the point about varied wickets is very important. In a series of 5 matches for example, it would be great to see for example 2 green tops where the match may be over inside 4 days, 2 wickets that help the spinners from Day 3 and maybe 1 flat deck that is just a batting match. For me, this would be a thrilling series to watch. It would be a true test of the cricketing skills of each team. Obviously this is easy said than done, but Test countries should be working along these lines. It is a great sadness for me to see mediocre batsman's averages ever increasing unchallenged. Make them earn their runs I say.

Posted by   on (December 22, 2010, 23:18 GMT)

cricket is better if every country produce results pitch and this article is not saying no to subconinant pitch but to the flat pitch in which mostly happen in asia. but flat pitch are every where.

Posted by kabe_ag7 on (December 22, 2010, 21:41 GMT)

@SurlyCynic - Nobody is calling Centurion pitch extreme. Just that having won the toss it favoured the SA pacers a lot on day 1, which anybody would agree with. It's a fact, not a complaint. Whom is anybody going to complain to here, anyway?

Posted by SurlyCynic on (December 22, 2010, 17:29 GMT)

Sanjay Yekollu : Are you saying noone complains about fast / bouncy pitches in SA / Aus? Most of what I've read on here from Indian supporters are complaints about the pitch at Centurion! So your supporters complain as much as anyone. Centurion was not extreme.

Posted by   on (December 22, 2010, 16:52 GMT)

and just some few weeks ago smith openly said that he preffered more bouncy wickets and wanted to exploit their home advantage!! but this does not apply the same for the subcontinent teams!! for example take india if they lose a test match at home...ppl sound a warning that india might prepare a turner and start rubbishing them!!! so hw come if aus or sa prepare a more bouncy pitch ,it is just applying the home advantage they hav and if india does thee same ,its unfair to the visiting teams???

Posted by   on (December 22, 2010, 16:49 GMT)

i would still like to see india preparing spiining pitches....come on that is what subcontinent pitches should be like!!! if u see south africa , australia and england swing and bounce are more prominent there..their teams are homegrown on these conditions and they do perform well in thier home!!! and if u see the subcontinent pitches they offer more for spin and not so much for bounce or swing!!! so how can one say that playing against fast bowling is the most important aspect!! if u cant play against a particular type of bowling i think u shouldnt be regarded as a good batsman!!

Posted by 2.14istherunrate on (December 22, 2010, 16:42 GMT)

Great article. The ubiquitous slow low lifeless pudding pitches must be consigned to history. The problem with a Perth style wicket is that few ever see one until they are playing on one so lack of familiarity makes players look stupid. I am surprised though in part at English players ineptitude there because England have usually played well at the Oval. But Thorpe apart I cannot think of a single Englishman who has distinguished himself there. But you cannot argue with the spectacle of that sort of wicket. Or indeed of one or two other livelier surfaces.

Posted by   on (December 22, 2010, 16:21 GMT)

"...apart obviously from the fact that Australians are more literate and Englishmen more sports-obsessed..."

Are you sure about this? Coming from a country that think it's their God-given right to be in the top five in the Olympic medal tallies and beat the Poms in anything with a ball involved? It's the other way around.

Posted by popcorn on (December 22, 2010, 16:07 GMT)

This is a superbly BALANCED Article - ome I wish Cricket Boards ALL over the world would read and act upon.

Posted by   on (December 22, 2010, 15:56 GMT)

@ SurlyCynic : My point exactly but how come no body complains or cries foul when Australia or South Africa prepare fast bouncy tracks to suit their strengths and weaken the touring team.

Posted by Quazar on (December 22, 2010, 15:16 GMT)

@SurlyCynic...I pretty much concur with the 1st half of your comment, but there are some factual errors in the latter half. In 2008, SA won the toss and batted first in that deciding Test, but still lost...yes, that was certainly as doctored / tailor-made a home pitch as any, but the cricket was still pretty compelling because of the challenge thrown at the batsmen, even by bowlers like Morkel (especially) and Steyn who were rapping the Indians on the gloves due to variable bounce. Secondly, I haven't read a single comment by an Indian fan calling the Centurion pitch as over the top...folks have simply said that India were a little unlucky with the toss due to the dampness (due to excessive rain, of course) on Day 1. In fact, Centurion was a very good cricket track which allowed all the skills of the game to come into play over the 5 days.

Posted by SmellyCat on (December 22, 2010, 15:10 GMT)

Rthik, thats because the Aussies, the English and the Proteas cannot play quality spin.. as simple as that.. just like Asians find hard to cope the bounce and swing.. I doubt any of these teams have any batsmen to grit it out on a fifth day Kotla pitch of a decade old... but there are hardly any turners in India anymore..

Posted by   on (December 22, 2010, 13:02 GMT)

As the ABC Grandstand commentary team said during the Perth test, cricket is a much more interesting game when wickets are falling. Many Australians are crying out for better roads, we just didn't think the Gabba curator would be someone who could help us build them. (A one-off, admittedly. Brisbane is usually much better than that.)

Posted by SurlyCynic on (December 22, 2010, 12:50 GMT)

Ska Rthik - there is nothing wrong with a wicket that turns, or one that offers pace and bounce (although I admit I prefer watching a bouncy wicket as spinners still get some advantages as the game goes on and it's good to see batsmen facing proper fast bowling). There is a problem with wickets that cross the line and are dangerous or unfair, like the quick wicket in the Windies recently where the game had to be called off as the bounce was variable and dangerous. Or the one which India prepared when 1-0 down to SA and needed to gamble to win, so day 1 was like a day 5 pitch and fell apart by day 3 and became impossible to bat on - but India won the toss and so drew the series. Either extreme is a problem.

But most Indian comments have been saying the Centurion pitch was a problem ('over the top'?), but it did not do that much, Tsotsobe went at 5 an over it was only good bowling by Steyn and Morkel on a pitch that did a bit for a while, nothing extreme.

Posted by dogbear on (December 22, 2010, 12:36 GMT)

Here's where the article falls apart in a sea of implausibility:

"Australians are more literate"

Posted by enquist on (December 22, 2010, 12:19 GMT)

Its an excellent article while hailing the juicy wicket which was there at Perth that provided a fine contest between bat and ball throughout. The game of cricket has evolved tremendously in all these years especially in terms of monetary gains, however, one vital aspect that the administrators of the game have clearly let themselves and the game down is their ineptitude attitude towards improving the state of pitches. The sporting track at WACA was a prime example to the governing body of the game i.e. ICC that its not just runs and looking into the heeds of the sponsors which runs the game, its much more than that. The fantastic game of cricket serves its purpose only when there are sporting wickets prepared throughout all the test playing nations. There should be an even contest between bat and ball, pitches should be prepared in such a way that not only its good for strokeplay but also has something for the bowlers.

Posted by   on (December 22, 2010, 11:29 GMT)

"More recently, in 2005 as a matter of fact" you mean 2009, surely?

Posted by amit1807kuwait on (December 22, 2010, 10:55 GMT)

As a spectator, I'd like to watch a contest between bat and ball. Conditions loaded in favour of either bowlers or batsmen do not make for a compelling viewing all the time. I remember the India-NZ series of late 2002 when quality batsmen of both sides were made to feel like school kids by even ordinary bowlers like Andre Adams just because the pitches had too much juice in them. And the same holds true for docile pitches like Motera in 2009 when SL raked up 760 for 7 dec. Quality bowlers were ineffective because the pitch had nothing in it for them. Hence, the bottomline - spicier pitches are fine, as long as they allow the batsmen to remain in the game. Else, it again becomes a pain to watch.

Posted by Nerk on (December 22, 2010, 10:16 GMT)

The captains must do their part too. Instead of putting a player on the boundary every time a boundry is hit (Strauss and Ponting, even Dhoni is guilty of this) challenge the batter to take a risk. Instead of bowling miles outside off, bowl at the stumps. Instead of leaving every ball, have a go you mug!

Posted by   on (December 22, 2010, 10:11 GMT)

Typically spun out piece. I don't see anyone making accusations about the pitch. They are suggesting it might be tailored to suit fast bowlers, butnot from the angle that this is a bad thing.

If anything, the English media are of the view that the English bowling attack are a match for the Aussie bowling attack - except one is a 3 man pace attack, the latter has an extra player. And batting wise, take out Hussey and Watson, and the Waca pitch was a handful for the Aussie batsmen too.

Posted by RJHB on (December 22, 2010, 10:10 GMT)

SPot on with the article Pete, couldn't agree more. The suspicion has always been that TV execs have had a big impact upon the nature of pitches in Australia in the last decade or so. Australia had been winning so easily on any deck anyway, but if there'd been any spice the test would invariably be over in 3 days. Thats a lot of missing advertising time for sponsors and wouldn't do for money hungry administrators! Maybe with Australia slipping back to the pack now, the pitches in Australia will again return to their individual characters, though the MCG with its drop in glue pots is a lost cause. Here's hoping the Brisbane Lions don't get their way and the Gabba doesn't move to its own drop in pitches. BTW that India V. Sri Lanka series was a disgrace. Sri Lanka, and only to a slightly lesser extent India, seem interested only in breaking records for their own self glorifying egos first and foremost, the actual game comes a very distant second. SL have been doing it for years.

Posted by JeffG on (December 22, 2010, 9:32 GMT)

Thanks for an enjoyable article Peter. I think that the Adelaide and Perth pitches have been brilliant and have produced some of the most interesting test cricket I've seen in ages. I'm hoping that the Melbourne pitch is as good but that the match ends in an exciting draw. That would set it up perfectly for a winner-takes-all encounter in Sydney, with hopefully Swanny destroying the Aussies in the final innings to retain the Ashes :-)

I just have 2 points to make on the article - it was 2009 and not 2005 when the Oval pitch was prepared to help enable a result. In 2005, England had no desire to see a decision at the Oval (hence why they replaced Jones with Collingwood and not another bowler.)

Also, Cricket is not the most stats-obsessed game - that honour goes to Baseball. And until cricket develops its own army of Sabermetricians, Baseball will always hold that honour.

Posted by CharlieAlanJakeHarperFamily on (December 22, 2010, 9:10 GMT)

Result of a match depends a lot on the attitude of the players had warne-mcgrath been bowling at the opening test at gabba which turned out to be stalemate would have been a result oriented for sure so its the quality of bowling yes the pitches do play a role in the mindset of the players and outcome of result but the attitude towards test cricket is paramount suppose ur 2-0 up in a 3 match series u better go for the result than being conservative like the SA,ENG aussies never play conservative

Posted by   on (December 22, 2010, 9:01 GMT)

Very true. The most exciting test matches are those in which the maximum total reached is 300. The bowlers deserve more help from the wicket because batting is naturally more likely to fight out against the odds. Bowlers, however, cannot entertain on a flat track. The game should be made fair once and for all. The only way to get results consistently is to restrict all batting to preferably below 300 and at most below 400. People should endeavour to create the perfect pitch that produces a result anytime on day5.

Posted by Vishnu27 on (December 22, 2010, 9:00 GMT)

Ska Rthik: because dust-bowl bat dominated games are essentially highly boring. Not many people pay good money to watch batsmen dominate the whole game. People want a fair contest. A proper battle. A test of mettle & skills. It does not require an astrophysicist to curate a decent test wicket even in India (one of the most fertile places on earth), just someone with sound knowledge. However, there is generally a subcontinental opt-out policy when it comes to greentops, as there is not the required depth & calibre of local pace bowlers to support such wickets. As a spectacle, test cricket in India is in total decline for a variety of reasons. You only have to glance at the empty stands of a so-called big Indian test series. The country has been completely seduced by T20. In England, SA & Australia test cricket is very much alive & extremely well supported by sell out crowds. These are the people keeping test cricket alive. The supporters. They want the ball to do equally as well as bat.

Posted by kabe_ag7 on (December 22, 2010, 8:47 GMT)

How is a wicket which is very fast and suits only pacers and takes out spinners any better or any worse than a turner which takes out pacers from the equation. I understand that it's a rant against placid pitches (mind you, found everywhere in the world). But surely it shouldn't be and cannot be an indictment of Indian turners. As if playing spin is not a cricketing skill.

Posted by   on (December 22, 2010, 8:42 GMT)

And people crib when they prepare Turning tracks, what is so shameful about Turning Tracks?? It is more difficult to bat or bowl on turning track than on a green top....

Posted by Hoggy_1989 on (December 22, 2010, 8:29 GMT)

I quote from the article: "More recently, in 2005 as a matter of fact, the Poms left the Oval pitch so open to the sun that it burnt yellow, became parched and began crumbling before a ball had been bowled. Of course this was part of a crafty plan to ensure that the match produced a result. Had the Australians won the toss and included a spinner the series might have gone the other way, but that was a risk the hosts were willing to take." I hate to nitpick here Peter...but I think you mean the 2009 series. In '05, Australia played Shane Warne in all Ashes Test matches. Other than that, I agree with the point you're trying to make - Test pitches need to be made to produce results in all flat batting tracks and run-fests. Are you listening India? Can you hear me Sri Lanka?

Posted by EDWIN_KIMBERLY_KIMCLIJSTERS on (December 22, 2010, 8:11 GMT)

peter, the oval pitch that you are talking about was not in 2005 but 2009

Posted by Andrew_S on (December 22, 2010, 7:52 GMT)

This comment in the article "In no other game are statistics held in such high esteem." is not quite true. Statistics are held in very high esteem in most of the major United States sports, especially American Football. In the NFL there are half a dozen different stats used to measure performance and carefully tracked for every position - and usually the most important stats aren't the ones that determine who wins a game (ie touchdowns scored for offensive play and points conceded for defensive play), but stats such as yards per carry, and yards conceded per play.

Posted by trepuR on (December 22, 2010, 7:48 GMT)

Peter, you make some very good points, pitches cannot become too docile, it is boring, I thoroughly enjoyed the WACA test, because of the bowlers dominance, and I agree with everything that you said in this article. Bating averages have gone up, but the actual skill of the batsmen would pale in comparism to those of the past, in the realy early days of thest cricket (pre 1900),a player with an average in the 20s was considered a worthy batsmen. We don't need to go to those extremes, but more lively piches should be prepared in test matches. Too much of a good thing is never enough, if we favor the bowlers too much, the game will suffer, favour batting, and the game will suffer. A happy medium must b found, pitches should have some grass on the first day, then as they dry out become better for batting, and by late day four and five, the pitch should begin to powder and crack to bring in the spinners.

Posted by brenno23 on (December 22, 2010, 7:00 GMT)

hey guys, good article pete, but i'd have to agree with ebbie-qld myself, i live about 50 minutes drive south of brisbane, and there was a lot of rain leading up to that match, i went to day 4, and while it wasn't great to be an aussie on that day, it was still entertaining. @ska rthik, it's all well and good to have dusty turning pitches on the subcontinent, but pitches like the ones for the India-Sri Lanka series are a disgrace, i mean watching good batsmen score runs on sporting decks is good entertainment, but those one in Sri Lanka, they were a disgrace, and did not make for entertaining cricket, the best players should have the best possible pitches to play on, and if they want to prepare pitches like those one in sri lanka, they may as well play on synthetis pitches, it was that bad. Thanks guys

Posted by mattyboy95 on (December 22, 2010, 6:47 GMT)

in the T20 against Pakistan last season, the pitch at the 'G was full of pace, Tait delivered the fastest recorded ball in Australia. It was great to watch. Lets hope that happens again come Boxing Day

Posted by Quazar on (December 22, 2010, 6:46 GMT)

Let us hope for 2 more good result wickets at the MCG and Sydney. And I do hope the SCG groundsman too will prepare a more traditional SCG track, which provides good assistance to spinners. For if Australia could handle Swann on a turning SCG track and go on to beat England, the credibility of their revival would be greatly enhanced.

Posted by   on (December 22, 2010, 6:45 GMT)

@cdonges, think cane toads

Posted by Quazar on (December 22, 2010, 6:34 GMT)

@Ska Rthik - the answer to your question is that most of the vocal writers (such as Peter) are from nations who don't excel against spin; in fact, very often struggle rather badly. If one were truly objective in one's affection for challenging tracks (in respect of Test batsmanship), one would welcome viciously turning tracks in India and SL, just as much as viciously bouncing ones at Perth and Jo'burg...and I know that numerous Test cricket aficionados on the subcontient (such as me) certainly do!

Posted by George_in_Israel on (December 22, 2010, 6:33 GMT)

"In no other game are statistics held in such high esteem." With all due respect, I think that Major League Baseball in the US is far more interested in statistics.

Posted by cricfanraj on (December 22, 2010, 6:19 GMT)

@Ska Rthik - Its quite simple. Sporting pitches means it should favour Ausis , England and SA. Poor pitches are those which favour Sub Continent

Posted by   on (December 22, 2010, 6:13 GMT)

@Rthik , I believe you are referring to the SA vs INDIA match where the number 1 team was bowled out for 130 odd runs. Besides, we don't even see spinner friendly wickets these days, even if there were such wickets, there aren't good enough spinners in the world right now to make use of it, now don't get on your high horse and say Harbhjan is one of them.

You can't deny that bouncy pacy wickets are exiting to watch. Besides the beauty of the WACA match was not the wickets itself, but how the wickets were set up by building up pressure on a seamer friendly wicket, and it was a real treat to watch. Just because your little flat track bubble is bursting in South Africa, don't blame the rest of the world :P

Posted by lamecoolguy on (December 22, 2010, 6:13 GMT)

It was the 2009 Ashes series when the Oval pitch was prepared to force a result, not 2005. That's what I think anyway!

Posted by ram5160 on (December 22, 2010, 5:42 GMT)

I don't get it. Is Roebuck talking about the same Ind-SL 3 test series which was drawn 1-1 ? There was only one drawn match in there and that only because SRT was dropped early with India down 4 wickets for nothing and went on to save the match with a 200. And how is it that in the good old days the percentage of drawn matches was much higher than it is today? Surely, it should be the other way around? Writers like Roebuck give me the confidence that even I can write for Cricinfo. A total misunderstanding of basic math and facts seems the only criterion.

Posted by Biggus on (December 22, 2010, 5:31 GMT)

I find all this talk about the Perth pitch a little odd. The recent result there had nothing to do with any 'demons' in the pitch. Certainly there was some bounce and carry but the winning ingredient was the Aussies getting the ball to swing at a decent pace and bowling the ball in the right areas. The biggest mystery was the apparent inability of most of the English bowling attack to do the same. @Ska Rthik-If only Indian curators would produce wickets which offered a chance of a result more of the time instead of concentrating on making tracks that first and foremost negate opposition pace attacks and minimise the chance of a loss, then the cricket world at large might take them seriously, and the results of this pampering of the Indian batting line-up are seen every time they tour.

Posted by _NEUTRAL_Fan_ on (December 22, 2010, 5:28 GMT)

@Ska Rthik. What's shameful is the fact that you are delusional. I don't know who you are listening to but I haven't heard many having a prob with pitches that help spin. What they are against are flat pitches which hamper ALL bowling,it just so happens that flat pitches are just even more detrimental to pace than spin. Just as bad are underprepared pitches which crumble from the first day and will have 2 teams batting twice within 3 DAYS!

Posted by Krooks on (December 22, 2010, 5:15 GMT)

The latest series between India and Sri Lanka was a high-scoring farce that did nothing to advance the game and a lot to improve averages ????

Peter have you lost it? There were 3 Test Matches out of which 2 had results.

The one in the middle was a snooze fest but so was Gabba. The Ind-SL series was exciting for Murali's 800 wickets and laxman's last day chase on a crumbling track.

I respect you a lot for your musings but at times you do make such mistakes. For an ex-cricketer and a respected well known cricket journalist, such mistakes are not acceptable.


Posted by ebbie-qld on (December 22, 2010, 4:08 GMT)

Hey Pete, ease up on the Gabba.The Mitchell crew would have had a nightmare preping the pitch in Brisbane. Wettest spring on record. In the last month before the test it probaly rained on 20 days. Not the normal thunderstorms, but drizlle ( Pommy) rain. Trying to get the ideal Gabba wicket would have been near on impossible.

Posted by cdonges on (December 22, 2010, 4:08 GMT)

What exactly is a 'can toad'? I have been a Queenslander for all of my 36 years and never heard of them?

Posted by brendan on (December 22, 2010, 3:51 GMT)

Agree wholeheartedly, for test cricket will be the winner, if pitches with spice are produced more often. The Aussie pace attack were flattenned by that 2 lane highway in Bris-vegas, and were still only operating at 75% in Adelaide after the batsmen did not dig in during the first session. Cricket is not just a match between bat and ball, the pitch is the main ingredient, it gives bowlers heart knowing if they are in form and have any control, they have half-a-chance if they pitch the ball in the correct area. The MCG, can produce bouncy pitches with sideways movement, that become lower and more erratic as the game ambles on. You can be guaranteed Melbourne will produce a result, but which Captain will take enough risks and go on the attack when bowling. P.S. Usman Khawaja, should have opened in Perth, he does have a sound opening batsman`s technique, not like the wood-chopper Hughes, and when Punter finally drops down to 5 or 6 he will be a perfect replacement at 3.

Posted by CustomKid on (December 22, 2010, 3:49 GMT)

Couldn't agree more Peter. More bounce is required in our wickets around the world. Give the bowlers a chance against a game dominated by the bat. Bigger heavier bats, shorter boundries, and flatter pitches - seriously who would be a quick these days? Only the very best can take wickets on flat surfaces and they are few and far between. Malcolm Marshal and Dale Steyn are the two that stand out for me at present and probably Kapil Dev. None of them overly tall men so lack the advantage of hight like a Ambrose or Walsh. They just new their craft very very well and were highly skilled. They probably deserve more praise than they get. If it was that easy there would be a lot more of them in our game but that simply isn't the case. All three are excellent and add Akram and Waqar in that mix too.

Posted by Meety on (December 22, 2010, 3:46 GMT)

Good article. There are 2 things ruining Test cricket at the moment 1) CEO pitches designed to go 5 days, 2) Slow over rates. I think the GABBA 1st Test pitch can be excused because there was extreme weather in QLD since September - this has an impact. I was so happy to see something resembling the old WACA in the 3rd Test. I think it is true that over the years Oz has been less likely to doctor a pitch. Look at the WACA pitch for the deciding Frank Worrell test where the WINDIES won 2-1. It was tailor made for the WINDIES & Ambrose destroyed us. I hope the MCG is hard & fast, & the SCG takes turn. Whatever the pitch - Oz will win back the Ashes - they belong here.

Posted by Something_Witty on (December 22, 2010, 3:28 GMT)

I fully agree. It is sad how the Aussie tracks have lost their individuality. Adelaide has always been a road and I cannot see that changing any time soon, however Brisbane this year was a disappointment (probably due to the ridiculous quantities of rain we've been getting in Queensland). But Perth and the SCG used to be renowned for extreme bounce and extreme turn respectively. Neither have retained this quality, and I would love to see it restored. The Perth pitch was great, but the bounce there wasn't insane bounce as it was back in the good ol' days, it was just good, true, consistent bounce. Nothing more, nothing less.

Posted by   on (December 22, 2010, 3:23 GMT)

i don understand why ppl don say anything if the wicket is condusive to fast bowling and one team gets skittled out for a paltry score!!! but the same doesnt happen if it was a dusty wicket which offers more spin...and suddenly every1 gover over the top and say this is shameful!!

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Peter RoebuckClose
Peter Roebuck He may not have played Test cricket for England, but Peter Roebuck represented Somerset with distinction, making over 1000 runs nine times in 12 seasons, and captaining the county during a tempestuous period in the 1980s. Roebuck acquired recognition all over the cricket world for his distinctive, perceptive, independent writing. Widely travelled, he divided his time between Australia and South Africa. He died in November 2011

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