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March 12, 2007
Andy Roberts, the former West Indies fast bowler who is now a pitch consultant for the World Cup, has predicted that the pitches in the tournament may not necessarily be slow turners, contrary to general expectations. With several pitches being relaid and a few new surfaces being tried out, Roberts expects the pitches to offer enough assistance to both batsmen and bowlers.
"A lot of people will be surprised by the 22 yards on offer," Roberts told The Times of India. "We won't get the slow pitches that people are anticipating." Roberts, also the chief curator of the Antigua Recreation Ground, cited the India-West Indies practice match at the Trelawny Stadium last week as an example. West Indies were bundled out for just 85 on a pitch which offered plenty of seam movement.
"What you will find is a lot of brand new pitches," he said. "For the first game or so they may be slow. That will not be the case right through. At some venues it will have even bounce, some will also have a lot of carry."
Roberts has been busy supervising the preparation of pitches all over the Caribbean for the World Cup, coordinating with Andy Atkinson, the ICC's pitch consultant. When asked for his impression of the relaid wickets, Roberts said that the surfaces in the Kensington Oval in Barbados and the Sir Viv Richards Stadium in Antigua were sporting in nature. However, he expressed caution over the new surface in Guyana, given its location in the South American mainland.
"The wicket in Barbados has been playing fairly well in the practice games," he said. "There have been lots of runs. The bounce and carry has been good. Antigua too has a new pitch and if it has been prepared according to the specifications then you might see the same thing there. The only one I am worried about is Guyana. It doesn't have the same type of clay as other countries. It may surprise us because it is a new pitch."
Pitches in the West Indies have slowed down over the years, offering plenty of assistance to the slower bowlers as India observed last year during their tour. However, Roberts felt that the region had come for some unfair criticism. "In the Champions Trophy too you had some bad pitches," Roberts said. "Most pitches around the world have slowed down."
But Kent Crafton, the groundsman at Beausejour Stadium in St Lucia, said teams should not expect the pitch there to be overly slow. "One thing we've tried to do is put more compaction into the clay to increase the pace and bounce," Crafton told AFP. "That will aid in the ball probably coming in with some more pace, not expressly, but just a little bit more than normal, which will aid in more runs being scored.
"It will be good wicket, I would not say it will be an exceptionally fast pitch but the ball will come off nicely. We've had very good opening partnerships here. The wicket will not change much from during the morning until the afternoon. I don't believe the toss will matter so much. If it's cloudy, maybe you'd want to bowl first."
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