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It would be easy to write a little something about the day one efforts of our current superman Steve Smith, or our fine wine ChrisRogers, but I’m going to have a crack at the pitch and pitch preparation worldwide instead.
I have posted a link to an article on espncricinfo.com (click here for article) relating to the current pitch that has been prepared for the second test at Lords. It shines light on nothing specifically new, that pitches can be requested from the controlling board of the home country, and then the accusations swiftly denied by the both the board and curators. It also states clearly in the title “A Pitch to Damage Test Cricket” and it’s this broader statement that I want to look at.
Currently most worldwide teams (South Africa being the exception) have struggled to win a series away from home. There should be a distinct advantage to playing at home, but at what cost to the game?
I look back at the period of domination by Australia and the players we had at our disposal. When you look at the line up and the guys on the peripheral of that team, you could dead set count on them. When the chips were down, it didn’t matter who came in next, we were confident the game wasn’t finished until the 90th over had been bowled on the fifth day.
While being very aware of the rarity of the calibre of players in one team, the thing they could all do was adapt. It didn’t matter where or when, they would adapt. This was found in players from all over the world, we just seemed to have a team full of them.
The ability to adapt is the key to winning a series away from home. That’s it. Done. If you can hone your skills in any conditions, you are well over half way to winning the series. BUT, now days we are getting pitches prepared so blatantly in favour of the home team that it would take a year in their local system to adapt. There must be minimum standards that relate to the battle between bat and ball for all test pitches. You can use every excuse under the sun for not getting it right for first class matches, but test cricket is the pinnacle of our game; it needs to be a spectacle.
Why do home teams do it?
My personal opinion is because of the nature of professional sport worldwide there is the obvious ever present business element. If a home team goes down in a bad way it damages a brand. It damages tickets sales, merchandise sales, kid’s participation rates for the next season and so on. When sports in most countries are competing for the love of the fans against other sports (unless you are New Zealand and Rugby) you have to make the most of the home ground advantage.
We are approaching the edge fellow cricket lovers. As stated in the article mentioned, if the MCC can make statements saying that test cricket will die in its current state, yet turn around and prepare this pitch for the absolute pinnacle of our sport, then who do we turn to set the example? Let’s see how the pitch plays out after five days, but I think it’s fair to say everyone prefers to see a bit of bounce and solid carry on day one, and a transition to something for a spinner by day five.
Looking forward to seeing what the Aussie set for the first innings and also to see what we can do with the ball in hand!