England v Australia, 5th Investec Test, The Oval, 5th day

Clarke rules out pitch doctoring in Australia

Daniel Brettig at The Oval

August 25, 2013

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Graeme Swann has a good look at the pitch, Chester-le-Street, August 8, 2013
England prepared wickets to suit Graeme Swann during this series © Getty Images
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Australia's captain Michael Clarke has insisted that England will not be greeted by doctored pitches when they arrive down under for the return Ashes series. This is despite his side's dire results over nine Test matches in India and England in 2013, where surfaces have without exception been made to order for the home team.

England's coach Andy Flower had argued, at times politely and others forcefully, for the dry, slow strips played on across the five Tests that reaped a 3-0 margin for the hosts. The England captain Alastair Cook said such tactics were all part of home advantage in a contemporary Test series.

In a dry summer the chosen pitches had forced a strong Australian pace attack to work hard for their wickets while also aiding the superior spin of Graeme Swann. Yet Clarke, having seen his team subjected to all manner of humiliations and now dropped to No. 5 on the world rankings for the first time since August 2011, did not submit to the view that Australia would need to be equally precise at home.

"I think we've had enough success in Australia how the wickets are, so I don't see any reason to doctor them," Clarke said. "I want to see good even wickets, a good contest between bat and ball. It's how I think you play your best cricket, that's how the people watching get to see some great cricket, so I'm confident if the wickets are how Australian wickets are and we play our best cricket, we'll have success.

"In my time as an Australian player I don't think I've ever seen an Australian wicket change too much. Generally you know what you're going to get, so I don't see any reason why they will change that. You want a good, even battle between bat and ball and spin will definitely play a part as the wickets deteriorate in Australia, because it's nice and hot. To me that's how you see some great cricket.

"At the end of the day that's a part of international cricket; you tour around the world and play in different conditions. You need to find a way to adapt. Unfortunately for us now in India and in the UK we haven't been able to have success so we've got to keep working hard."

As he drank in the realisation of his first Ashes series win as captain, Cook acknowledged that his team had sought every possible advantage, and would not begrudge Australia doing likewise. "Of course home advantage gives you that choice to try as much as you can to push things in your favour," he said. "That's why its Test cricket, that's why it's home advantage and one of the beauties of Test cricket is you have to test yourself in different conditions.

"So when we get to Australia it'll be similar I imagine to 2010-11, those pitches which they will try to have suit them as well, but we've got some good memories of what happened there last time, and a lot of the similar players are there as well."

The captains' contrasting attitudes to the overseeing of home pitch preparation is in line with a wider theme. Australia prefer to play a more romantic, aggressive brand of the game, even if they have repeatedly tripped over in the pursuit of their ideal. But England are unapologetic about thinking negatively at times, reasoning that to push an opponent further from victory is to pull themselves closer to it.

"Australia should be credited a little bit for the way they've set the game up," Cook said of a dramatic final day at The Oval. "But at the beginning of the day we knew we had to make it as difficult as we could for Australia to push home what they were trying to do. We knew they were going to push for the win, and the harder we made it the easier it would've been for us to win, and that was proven."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

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Posted by Moppa on (August 28, 2013, 23:23 GMT)

Wow, @redneck, you have a great memory. The last time Sri Lanka played in Brisbane was in 1990. Further complicating your argument, Australia racked up 450 declared against WI on a 'greentop' in 2009 and 400 odd against NZ in 2011. And bowled out England for 260 on the first day of the series in 2010. But, otherwise, your theory is rock solid.

Posted by Dashgar on (August 28, 2013, 12:42 GMT)

Australia never doctor pitches. This was proven when India toured and we put them on 3 of the 4 slowest pitches in the country. Every now and again there will be a pitch that looks pretty green but equally there are pitches that border on bald. Everyone knows the WACA will be fast, the Gabba will bounce and seam, Melbourne will be slower and Sydney and Adelaide are the most likely to turn. This will be true again, the toss will be important but not match defining and most matches will get a result on day five. Lets hope for no rain delays and a great showing by both sides. Australia 3-2

Posted by   on (August 28, 2013, 8:09 GMT)

Pitch Doctoring isnt that Curator Prepares Pitches which are Green top Dust bowls or A Road, Its that Areas of the pitch are prepared for Bowlers of the Home side, Take Indian Pitches, Lyon couldnt get the Turn Ashwine could Due to different style and knowledge where Pitch was going to offer spin, Same as Swann verse Agar, different styles Ager had no chance, Lyon on the other hand bowled tight and got same spin as Swann, his Series Avg support this

Posted by   on (August 28, 2013, 7:02 GMT)

If any team wins by changing their pitches thats not called a win.

Posted by   on (August 28, 2013, 4:36 GMT)

I think anyone will struggle to find any consistent or demonstrable pitch doctoring in Australia for any home series in recent memory. The pitches simply are what they are. We talk about it happening in other nations and I think perhaps people just assume it happens in Australia too, but it doesn't. Captains or coaches just don't expect it because home ground advantage comes in familiarity and consistency. Sure, Brisbane can have more or less grass, Perth has lost some of it's former pace and Melbourne is the least predictable of all, but for the most part everyone has always known what they are going to get and Aussie captains have found that to be enough. The difference in this last series is that England have unapologetically pushed for pitches to be prepared in certain ways. That simply can't be denied. It's not the weather or anything else, it's a clear request from the team. It's not denied or hidden, it's plain and obvious and admitted. Maybe there is nothing wrong with that.

Posted by redneck on (August 28, 2013, 1:47 GMT)

clarkes towing the company line here. its clear as daylight brisbane have 2 different test strips. the traditional green top they roll out for NZ, WI and sri lanka and the ceo 5 days of batsmans paradise they roll out for south africa and england and probably india if they ever get that fixture again! perth is also guilty of this to a lesser degree. these are this country's most lively wickets, they sure show these characteristics in the shield still so why does it change when england or south africa rock up?

Posted by milepost on (August 27, 2013, 15:28 GMT)

Australian don't and have never doctored pitches and I'm proud of that. @Oliver Jones, fair and balanced comments from an English supporter who obviously has an understanding of the game. Congrats to you and as an Aussie supporter I make no excuses, 3-0 is the bottom line, you guys deserve it for performing in the key moments. Its easier to discuss with fans who aren't sore winners which there seem to be a few of. It's a bad look. There were some pretty tight contests and as someone pointed out some strange anomalies, like Lyon out bowling Swann in the matches they played, Australia having more centurions, higher scores, better bowling averages and tellingly, having to stay on in the dark longer. We won't doctor any pitches despite Flower and Cook admitting they have in this series. Agree with @oneeyedaussie

Posted by   on (August 27, 2013, 12:25 GMT)

I'd like to be a fly on the wall for the response of an Australian curator when the captain asks him to prepare a pitch in a way that enhances the prospects of the home side. It doesn't happen. The captain would be reminded, in no doubt colourful vernacular, of the limits of his prestige and influence. Preparing the pitch is the curator's sole responsibility and long may that continue.

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Daniel BrettigClose
Daniel Brettig Assistant editor Daniel Brettig had been a journalist for eight years when he joined ESPNcricinfo, but his fascination with cricket dates back to the early 1990s, when his dad helped him sneak into the family lounge room to watch the end of day-night World Series matches well past bedtime. Unapologetically passionate about indie music and the South Australian Redbacks, Daniel's chief cricketing achievement was to dismiss Wisden Almanack editor Lawrence Booth in the 2010 Ashes press match in Perth - a rare Australian victory that summer.
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