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February 23, 2009
The pitch at the National Stadium in Karachi, where 940 runs have been scored in three days for the loss of six wickets, has come in for sharp criticism from the principals in the match - the two coaches and Pakistan's captain - who said it was bad for Test cricket. Younis Khan, whose century in his first Test back as captain allowed Pakistan to move closer to saving the match, wondered if those responsible were reluctant to make sporting tracks.
"I am not the type of man to give excuses if we lose but I didn't want to have this type of wicket," Younis said. "I fail to understand and I think everyone is afraid [to make a good pitch]. The wicket should be result-oriented so that I can know the strength of the players. We have to go to Australia, we have to play against South Africa and New Zealand.
"For the last two days what I've read in newspapers is everyone criticising the wicket," he said. "If you see Pakistan's success outside Pakistan it's better than home. We are always in trouble at home, but I can't say who has made this wicket because I too don't know.
Younis pointed to a difference in the pitches used for domestic and international cricket. "If you look at the wickets in domestic matches, Sohail Khan and Yasir Arafat have taken a good number of wickets. I think there's some courses on how to make pitches and there's no shame in doing such courses."
Barely 200 spectators rattled around the 34,000-capacity National Stadium, with even offers of free tickets failing to draw fans. Younis felt if matches continued to be played on such tracks people would not come to watch. "Test cricket gets boring if we play on such wickets. They [Sri Lanka] scored over 600 and now we are going well and people won't come to the stadiums. Two top spinners from Sri Lanka are playing but they are not troubling us. We too have Danish [Kaneria] and Umar Gul, [but] if we play boring Tests people won't come to the stadiums. What are we showing the people?"
Sri Lanka's coach Trevor Bayliss was also disappointed with the quality of the track and wondered about their impact on Test cricket. "It's very flat and I think if both teams had taken their half chances the scores may be not quite as high as they are," he said. "But still like to see wickets with little bit in them. A better cricket wicket is, I suppose, one that is better for the bowlers and probably better for the batters too, with the ball coming on to the bat a little better. But you get these wickets every now and you've got to put up with it and do as best as possible you can."
He did, however, sound a cautionary note. "It would be bad for Test cricket if you get one of these every time. Most of the time the wickets around the world are pretty good but every now and then you get a wicket that favours batsmen, which obviously makes the work hard for the bowlers."
On Sunday, after Pakistan's bowlers had spent two days toiling in the field, their coach Intikhab Alam said he was disappointed with the slow pitch. "We were not expecting such a wicket, we needed a wicket that should have had grass and some bounce because we rely on our fast bowlers," he said. "Unfortunately that type of wicket could not be made and it is too suitable for batsmen."
Alam stopped just short of suggesting the curators were purposely preparing batsman-friendly pitches to maximize TV revenues and was sure discussions would be held on the matter. "I've suggested that wherever you go in the world they don't touch the centre wicket," he said. "It's especially reserved for Test matches. They play on the side wickets [but] here the problem is that sponsor wants to play on centre wicket because they want to televise the matches (in domestic cricket)."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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