Saturday, December 16, 2006

Pitching double standards in cricket

For as long as I can remember, there has been a strange double-standard in cricket. What is right for the Aussies, New Zealand, South Africans and England (ANSE) seems not quite right for India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan (ISP). The ANSE quartet has viewed every ISP move with suspicion and vice-versa. This needs to be curbed and cured for cricket to prosper, in my view.

Let us focus on pitches as an example where this malaise plays out particularly gallingly.

It is almost impossible for Indian and Sri Lankan curators to curate a WACA or Wanderers or Basin Reserve type pitch in Bangalore or Faisalabad or Kandy, in my view. The best that they can do is to prepare a drop in pitch flown in from Perth or wherever. But after a few seasons the pitch will return to its natural conditions. The local environment, the micro climate there and soil conditions determine the nature of the pitches to a largeextent. And so it should. One does not travel to the Carribean to expect to see Trafalgar Square in the rain over there. One goes there to experience the weather, the people the climate and the dust that prevails in the Carribean. My own view is that pitches are the way they are in places they are in because that is precisely what the local environmental conditions afford.

To expect a fast and pacy pitch in Kandy is as alien a concept as an expectation I'll have for a warm, sunny and sweaty day in Moscow in December! Most of the ANSE teams feign surprise and express disgust when faced with the type of pitches they see in Bangalore and Kandy. Well I think the respective Boards must ask their respective players to grow up and get used to it. I haven't seen Sri Lanka complain when they tour New Zealand. In 2002-03 India toured New Zealand. The pitches were under-prepared, fast and low. So much so that even the El Nino factor was cited as a lame excuse for the pitch conditions. No one complained. The team got on with it. Badly no doubt. But they got on with it.

Almost every ANSE team that tours ISP countries whinge, moan and complain about the nature of the pitches. Unfortunately, there is a terribly silly move by the ISP countries to go the other way and prepare artificially fast pitches in the face of these constant complaints from the ANSE teams. This is plain silly, in my view. These whinges should, in fact urge ISP curators to prepare more pitches that turn squarely on day one! After all, it requires technique to play spin, just as technique is necessary fro playing pace.

For example the pitch that was prepared in Nagpur when Australia visited India in 2004 was more of an Aussie pitch than most Aussie pitches! Why? Why prepare such pitches for ISP teams? ISP countries should prepare more pitches like the one they did in Mumbai for the final test of the series that had Ponting spewing. In that series, Buchanan, the Aussie coach complained and whined about the pitch in Bangalore and called it "terrible" from the moment he saw it. He found something else to whine about the moment he saw Australia score 474 in its first innings!

I am not saying ISP countries shouldn't play on fast pitches. I believe ISP countries should prepare a mix of bouncy pitches, fast pitches, green tops and dust bowls for their local competition. But just as one expects nothing by fast, bouncy green tops on a tour of New Zealand or South Africa, one should expect nothing but huge turners when teams visit India, Sri Lanka or Pakistan. And that is fair enough, in my view!

Now, take the example of "instructing" groundsmen on the preparation of wickets. I do not think it is fair enough for the local coach or the local Board to instruct its ground-staff on the nature of pitches that they will prepare. The theory is that local ground-staff should prepare pitches that the local soil conditions afford them. Almost all ANSE teams that visit the ISP countries whinge and complain and adopt the high moral ground. Yet there is no sense of outrage when we see, for example, Micky Arthur, the South African coach, instuct his ground-staff to prepare fast and bouncy pitches.

What makes that ok?

Why the hue and cry when Ganguly instructed his ground-staff to prepare spinning pitches in India?

Is is ok just because it is fast? Or is it ok just because it is ANSE?

Cricket needs a rethink.

No comments:

Post a Comment