No-one has spent more time batting on the MCG's hotly-debated pitches this season than Marcus Harris, and he has counselled his team-mates not to judge the surface by the expected preponderance of green grass geared towards ensuring a result after last year's bore draw during the Ashes series.
Harris got the fright of his life when he saw the pitch for the Sheffield Shield match, admitting now that he expected the game between Victoria and New South Wales to be over in "a day and a half", before proceeding to sculpt a monumental 250 not out that played a major role in vaulting him into the Test team.
As a result, Harris is expecting slow scoring but the opportunity for runs to be made by batsmen diligent enough to play within their lanes. "Pre-match when I saw the wicket I was really freaked out and I thought 'this game's going to be over in a day and a half and we've got blokes trying to vie for Test spots', so I went into the game with no expectations on myself and the wicket actually played pretty well," Harris told ESPNcricinfo. "It was relatively slow and stayed together.
"I saw this morning the wicket will probably be more similar to the South Australia game, where it had a bit more green grass on it, nipped around a bit but it was one of those wickets where if you play well you can make runs but if you bowl well you can take wickets.
"I think it'll be the same old thing of patience, the MCG is never a really quick scoring ground anyway, so that'll be the key, just realising things will take a while to evolve. Not sure the wicket will break up too much, but we'll just have to wait and see. Fortunately we've probably got the best bowling attack in the world so that looks after itself a little bit, but I think as batters a patience game will be the key and run rates won't be as quick as what you'd like, but that's the way it will be."
Like Harris, the MCG curator Matt Page is a former West Australian transplanted to the other side of the continent, now charged with ensuring the storied stadium has pitches to match its overall reputation. "We want to provide an opportunity for everyone," Page said. "Whether it's the spinners, it's the pace bowlers, or the batters. Providing them opportunities to be able to produce their world-class [skills] throughout a game, whether that's quickies at the front, batters in the middle, spinners towards the end. It's producing a pitch that everyone can show what they can do.
"I think this one will be very similar to the South Australian game which we were probably happy with the most. We were unlucky not to get a result through rain, but there seemed to be a bit there for everyone; a bit there for the quicks, a couple of guys scored hundreds and the feedback we got from that game was really positive. I know we are still three days out but are looking at a wicket that will be similar to that."
Both the NSW and SA fixtures benefited from plenty of early life, meaning the game could evolve at the requisite pace needed to ensure a result after it dried. Another Shield match, when Victoria hosted Western Australia, was not as lively as attempts to prepare a drier, harder surface resulted in a similar result to the soporific strip on which the Ashes Test was drawn. "We went in to that game and we tried to get a little bit harder and a little bit drier and didn't get the result we wanted," Page said. "We learned from that and we'll make sure it doesn't happen again."
Mitchell Starc, for one, is hopeful of something a little more equitable this time around. With typical bluntness, he assessed last summer's Test pitch ("shocking") and the ICC's average rating for the Perth Stadium flier ("harsh") that featured some of the characteristics Page is hoping to engender at the MCG over time.
"There hasn't been any discussion in the team but there has been plenty of traction in the public from past players at their disappointment of that rating," Starc said. "You had a fantastic Test match over five days, a fantastic battle between ball and bat which is what you want. I think that was a bit harsh, I'd say, and the fact it was such an exciting Test match that's what you want to promote. You want to see wickets like that in the future.
"Test cricket isn't meant to be comfortable, I know it's a batters' game, but that's what makes the game exciting. If you look at the match here last year where the wicket did nothing, it was a pretty boring Test match. If wickets are closer to what we saw in Perth it will create more exiting Test matches and you'll get more people watching.
"It sounds like it will be similar to one of the Shield games few weeks ago so the likelihood is it will do more than last year, which is great because last year was shocking - I didn't play, fortunately - but the early signs are there could be a bit of grass on it."