An "average" pitch rating by the ICC for the recently concluded Boxing Day Test between Australia and India has eased some pressure off the MCG and its ground staff, in the wake of last year's "poor" rating.
Given the dull draw played out last year between Australia and England, there was a sharp focus on the quality of the drop-in pitch in the lead-up to the third Test. The first two days of the match, which saw India pile up 7 for 443 declared, revived concerns about another dull surface, but the match turned on the third day with some unpredictable bounce and 15 wickets falling. India eventually won by 137 runs to retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.
The ground staff had prepared for the game with short-term changes - the addition of a layer of sand between the trays and the concrete base, the reduction of pitches on the square from 10 to seven to aid more natural wear and tear, and the decision to leave more grass on the pitch at the start of a game - alongside a longer-term plan to improve the quality of the surface.
The average rating means that the ground did not accumulate any demerit points. It was also the same rating given to the Perth pitch used for the second Test.
Under the ICC's pitch review system, which came into effect in January last year, if a pitch or outfield is rated as being substandard, that venue will be given a number of demerit points.
The ICC's criteria for an average surface states: "Lacks carry, and/or bounce and/or occasional seam movement, but consistent in carry and bounce. A degree of turn, but with average bounce for the spinner. Falling significantly short of "very good" with respect to carry, bounce and turn."
One demerit point will be awarded to venues whose pitches are rated by the match referees as below average, while three and five demerit points will be awarded to venues whose pitches are marked as poor and unfit, respectively.
When a venue accumulates five demerit points, it will be suspended from hosting any international cricket for a period of 12 months, while a venue will be suspended from staging any international cricket for 24 months when it reaches the threshold of 10 demerit points.
Demerit points will remain active for a rolling five-year period.