wisden.com (pre-merger site)

Reading the pitches

How early does one start preparing for an overseas cricket tour

Wisden CricInfo staff
How early does one start preparing for an overseas cricket tour? One month, two months, three months? New Zealand have begun their preparations for their tour of India six months in advance, with their representative already in India, gathering inputs on the various difficulties that touring teams face. And he's especially interested in the pitches. Karl Johnson, the turf manager of the High Performance Centre at New Zealand Cricket (NZC), has been assigned the job of studying and analyzing Indian pitches. Speaking to Wisden.com, Johnson said: "I will study the soil, the type of grass used here and the behaviour of the pitch in warm conditions. Then I will try and simulate similar types of surfaces back home."
Johnson is on a week-long trip to India and has been invited by the Cadence Cricket Academy in Pune to assist them in making their pitches. He has a dual role to play during his stay: he will gather data for the visit of the New Zealand Cricket Academy (NZCA) youngsters to Pune; and he will set up a base for his national team for visits to the subcontinent.
"I have to look at various things like weather conditions, the pitches, the practice facilities and the lodging and boarding for our Academy team, which may visit India soon," Johnson said. He said that his report would help prepare the NZCA players for the tour that lay ahead of them
"Also," he continued, "when our senior team visits the Asian countries there is a possibility of them getting acclimatised to the conditions by setting up their base here (in Pune) two to three weeks in advance."
Johnson, who looks after three grounds and some practice facilities at the NZC complex at Lincoln University, has not seen any other surface in India. He said that studying the two kinds of soil available to him here - the red and the black - would be enough to get a feel of Indian conditions. "The red soil takes a lot of spin and that is one of the reasons for bringing our youngsters here, so that they can get used to playing on low, slow turners."
The black soil, with its high clay content, makes the surface hard and assists bounce.
Johnson said that the key difference between Indian and New Zealand pitches lay in the grass that was used. "Here, they use warm-season grasses - couch grass or the Indian dew - while we use cold-season grass back in New Zealand, which is dryer."
Nagraj Gollapudi is a sub editor of Wisden.com in India.