Clarke rules out pitch doctoring in Australia
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