Matches (13)
BAN v SL (1)
IPL (1)
SLCD-XI in ENG (1)
ENG v NZ (1)
County DIV1 (4)
County DIV2 (3)
T20 Challenge (1)
ZIM v NAM (1)
Wicket to Wicket

Of pitches and balls

Earlier post: Introduction .

Earlier post: Introduction.
After the second one–day international against Sri Lanka, played on a worse-than-average one-day pitch at the Premadasa stadium, Inzamam-ul-Haq turned to me and said that batting on this wicket to score 130 was like scoring 438 at the Wanderers (only different!).
One of the great strengths of cricket is that pitches around the world offer variety, and therefore you are never sure what you are going to get – as a spectator, coach or TV commentator. Some great predictions have been made as to how the pitch might play, what the score might be, or how many runs this wicket will concede. Some have been spot on and some have been extremely wide of the mark.
I guess if you were at the Wanderers nobody got either innings right!
Indeed, one of the first priorities of the opening batsmen at the beginning of the game is to try and assess: “what sort of pitch is it and what are we looking to get?” This has to be updated regularly as the innings progresses, and I guess the Australian batsmen would have shared the fact that they could get 400 plus – they didn’t realise they were going to be 25 runs short!
Immediately after the game I thought, well, it had to happen one day. 400 runs has been under constant threat for the last two years, although as good a pitch as the Wanderers is, I would not have named it as the ground where the record would be broken! Recently in Karachi against England, Pakistan scored 350-plus and I knew then that 400 is possible and that the sub-continent generally reaps more runs than most venues. In recent years the Oval has produced large domestic scores but invariably the boundaries have been pretty short on one side.
Looking at the game evolving through the nineties, and then with the impetus of the Twenty20 competition, batsmen around the world are looking for – and have found – so many more innovative moves to outwit the bowler. Not only have they found more ways, but, in fact, they are gaining in confidence in using those methods. The effect is already infiltrating the 50-over game.
Flat, good pitches will now yield big scores and bowlers will struggle, and therefore the delicate balance of bat and ball that keeps the administrators busy annually will have to be studied at greater length than ever before. History will show many high-scoring games but the recent game at the Wanderers was extraordinary because it was against two of the better attacks in world cricket, with certainly two great fielding teams.
There are two issues in my mind when looking at one-day cricket
a] The crowd needs to be entertained and therefore a good pitch is needed, one that lasts throughout the day and does not favour the team batting first or second. Therefore I believe (like Steve Waugh) that good batting pitches are a pre-requisite of one-day cricket. No seam movement but a modicum of turn.
b] I believe that the bowler should be allowed to swing the ball, ether conventionally or with reverse swing. Controversially I would allow the bowler the opportunity to rub one side of the ball in the rough to allow for reverse swing.
There are, however, problems with the above two statements.
1] I am not sure that all grounds and grounds men can produce this type of pitch.
2] The current legislation about tampering with the ball would have to be changed.
Pitches around the world are different, and long may that continue, especially in Test cricket. To completely standardize one-day pitches would be wrong although there should be an effort to produce batsmen-friendly pitches. The issue of smaller boundaries should be addressed and there should be a standardized limitation for most pitches. Seventy-five meters perhaps?
Bats are bigger and better and batsmen can clear the ground with comparative ease. The ball remains the same; tennis reduced the speed of tennis balls by making them slightly differently. Cricket-ball manufacturers have not in my understanding managed to come to terms technologically to be able to do that, although I believe the company “Tiflex” in the UK are making strides to produce custom-made balls. Other companies would naturally baulk at the costs of high-technology machinery, and the cricket-ball market, which has historically been a cradle of hand-craftsmanship, would gradually move to machine-made balls for consistency. Could the manufacturers produce a ball that swings the whole game? Or one that batters would find harder to clear the boundary (although I don’t believe that would be good)?
In addition to everything else it is important to remember that all grounds are not the same size. Some in New Zealand are placed in rugby stadiums, and ground sizes are very different, which adds to the charm of the game. I can go on and on about the various different permutations but to counteract the flat pitches I conclude:
Allow the ball to swing by adjusting the current legislation to allow bowlers to prepare the ball to reverse swing a lot earlier.