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Ian Chappell

What's a good pitch?

One that gives batsmen and bowlers equal opportunity to succeed. Delhi and Adelaide did that

Ian Chappell
Ian Chappell
A batsman cannot expect to survive at the crease for long if he isn't decisive against spin bowling  •  Associated Press

A batsman cannot expect to survive at the crease for long if he isn't decisive against spin bowling  •  Associated Press

With controversy surrounding the surfaces prepared for Test matches in Nagpur and Adelaide, it's time to ask the question: is it the pitches or the performers who are responsible for Test matches being over in the blink of an eye?
Ravi Shastri, the Indian team director, quite rightly made the point that if the ICC was investigating the surface in Nagpur, then why wasn't a similar forensic examination being conducted on the Adelaide pitch, where the match was completed in a similarly short time frame?
I watched some of South Africa's batting in Delhi, on a pitch that was even for both sides, and I'm not surprised they were exterminated in Nagpur. If South Africa continue to utilise flawed techniques and mindsets, it won't matter where they are playing, they will encounter difficulty.
In many cases the technique and mindset were designed purely for survival. If you allow spinners to dictate terms for long periods, with fielders hovering round the bat, on pitches providing assistance, then survival will be brief.
The better the spinner, the more aggressive the batsman's thought process should be, as this promotes decisive footwork rather than a feeling that your sprigs are stuck in freshly laid tar. An aggressive thought process doesn't necessarily mean seeking regular boundaries; a succession of singles can disrupt the line and length of the best spinner. At least after a boundary, the spinner is still bowling to the same batsman. With a string of singles he's got to constantly change plans, and unless he's patient, that will drive him to distraction.
In Adelaide, the debate raged over the amount of grass left on the pitch. Bearing in mind the surface had to cope with Test cricket under lights for the first time and the use of a different-coloured ball, I thought the pitch was fair. It certainly provided a keen contest.
I was accustomed to seeing Australian pitches covered with an even mat of grass, and if this again becomes a trend it will be good for the game. I don't know if it was coincidence but the current Test pitch at Bellerive also had a good coverage of grass, which provided encouragement for West Indies. But they are in such disarray they were unable to capitalise.
Both teams have to play on a Test pitch and it's not the curator's fault if one side is either technically unable to cope or is beaten before a ball is delivered.
That brings us to the question: "What is a good pitch?"
A good pitch is one that provides a contest between bat and ball and hopefully a close finish. That means a good pitch can vary from region to region. In some places the surface will suit faster bowlers and in others, it will favour spinners.
A good batsman prides himself on his ability to prosper under any conditions, enjoying whatever challenge is presented. Why should a pitch that spins on the opening day be deemed worse than one that seams first up?
If Test teams are well balanced and capable of performing adequately under any conditions then there would be no advantage gained by preparing "home-town pitches".
In fact a trend towards Test pitches that provide encouragement to bowlers might actually convince batsmen of the need to seek a well-rounded technique, one that's equally adept at combining aggressive and survival techniques.
Cricket has reached the tipping point where the proliferation of the T20 game is affecting the longer version. If South Africa's batting in India and the all-round ineptitude of West Indies in Australia are any guide, all facets of Test cricket, including captaincy, are being diluted.
I found the Adelaide Test enthralling but what preceded it on a dull Perth pitch and followed at Bellerive with a lifeless and utterly inept West Indies team, less than inspiring.
There's certainly a need for an investigation but it should be looking at how cricket is evolving and what is the best way for the game to progress. It's time to start looking at the players and stop blaming the curators.

Former Australia captain Ian Chappell is now a cricket commentator for Channel 9, and a columnist