Draws a plenty

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In an interesting article in Melbourne’s The Age newspaper, Keith Dunstan has jokingly called for a Government inquiry into the placidity of cricket pitches in Australia. On a similar note, Peter Roebuck, in describing the first Ashes test as “ultimately a dud”, also bemoaned the state of the pitch, and wondered whether we may get to the Boxing Day test at 0-0. Whilst I think a Government inquiry may be going a bit far, I am certainly of the persuasion that it is high time the ICC takes some serious steps to rectify the docile nature of cricket pitches around the world.

Through the recent series between Pakistan and South Africa, and the current series in Sri Lanka with the West Indians, it has become painfully clear that all semblance of life has basically evaporated from pitches through the cricketing world. Too often I hear commentators refer to a ‘good cricket wicket’, when in actual fact the pitch resembles the middle lane of a German autobahn. As a result, we are seeing a worrying rise in drawn matches, and tons and tons of runs scored without any real meaning. Really, what is the point of Chris Gayle scoring 333 if his side has no chance of bowling out Sri Lanka so as to win the match?!?

Perhaps the main reason for the increasingly flat and lifeless wickets is the rise in prominence of T20 cricket, which un-ashamedly requires pitches that allow batsmen with questionable techniques to heave hapless bowlers out of the ground. T20, whilst certainly exiting, is not a fair contest between bat and ball, but this is largely not a problem as the length of the game delivers the level of drama required. However, test cricket is played for hours on end, and over five days, which means that the drama of short sharp innings is not in its favour. As a result, it needs pitches that give bowlers a fighting chance, as much for the enjoyment of the crowd, as for the continuation of new talent who may actually want to be a bowler in the future (really, who in their right mind after seeing the last two days of the first ashes test would want to be a bowler??).

Some may argue that test cricket is dying anyway, and that cricket grounds should be suited to the most popular and profitable form of the game. However, the reality is that most players still want to be involved in test match cricket. Furthermore, if pitches continue to be lifeless it is likely that bowling variations such as extreme pace and spin will fall by the wayside, as bowlers realise that medium-fast will suffice until the team declares their innings closed. If you weren’t going to get any help from the pitch why would you do anything else other than just trundle in a bowl at 130k/ph?

Test cricket is still the pinnacle of our game, and the ICC must take action so as to ensure that groundskeepers take the necessary steps to ensure that pitches really do ‘test’ each player on the ground. I am certainly not bemoaning the extraordinary efforts of Messers Cook, Strauss, Hussey, Trott and Haddin, but I am suggesting that these centuries would be all the more impressive if we knew that they were crafted on pitches that gave bowlers at least some semblance of hope.

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