Bob Woolmer, Pakistan's coach, today rubbished suggestions that the hosts had deliberately prepared batsmen-friendly wickets to avoid losing the Test series to India. "Quite frankly, the instructions passed to the groundsmen were that we wanted good cricket pitches with bounce," he told AFP.
"Those were the instructions. We don't make the pitches, we don't roll them, but we were hoping that they will produce good wickets for us. We don't want bare pitches without any grass on it and that's what Lahore and Faisalabad pitches were. It was the combination of weather and over-use of the pitches in the middle of the season."
Woolmer revealed that the National Stadium pitch at Karachi had a fair amount of grass on it but was unsure how much of it would remain when the Test starts. "There are still two days to go, the pitch will be rolled and the juice will be removed. I suspect they will cut it down to a normal Test pitch," he said.
Meanwhile, stung by criticism about the lifeless pitches in Lahore and Faisalabad that produced piles of runs and utter boredom, the Pakistan Cricket Board has announced remedial measures while stoutly defending itself and the Pakistan team management.
Citing an attempt to amend the docile pitches on view in Pakistan, the PCB announced that it is taking initiatives with international assistance. "In order to improve soil conditions at our venues, the PCB will hold an international experts workshop to chalk out measures to improve the sub-soil so that our pitches are able to produce the required bounce for a proper contest between bat and ball," the PCB said today. "The PCB has already requested Turf Institute of New Zealand to send an expert after the conclusion of the current series."
The board also clarified that it had, in consultation with Inzamam-ul-Haq and Woolmer, indeed asked for "hard, bouncy pitches" to be prepared for the three-Test series against India but unfavorable weather conditions - rain, frost and an absence of sunshine - had a large role in turning both venues into bat-dominated affairs.
It also absolved the curators at both venues of any particular blame by citing the example of the recent series against England, during which the pitches had held up admirably. After the run-glut on a featherbed of a pitch in Lahore in the weather-hit first Test, the Iqbal Stadium in Faisalabad had assumed importance, but any hopes were dispelled with a match aggregate of 1702 runs - the fourth-highest for five-day Tests - with only 28 wickets falling.
All hopes now rest on a more responsive pitch at Karachi to salvage the series.