Of pitches and curators | Daily News


Of pitches and curators

Former Australian cricket captain Ian Chappell is on the ball when he said if you want good Test pitches, leave the curators alone.

Chappell expressed his views following the treacherous pitch provided for the third and final Test between India and South Africa at the Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg that saw batsmen being hit all over their bodies and face and the umpires stopping play on the third day as they deemed the pitch ‘too dangerous for play’ after South African opener Dean Elgar was hit on the grill. Thankfully the Test resumed on the fourth day and the pitch surprising had lost some of its bite of the previous days so to say and India went onto complete a fine consolation win.

Elgar later claimed that the match should have been called off earlier, “but he only had to look around his own dressing room to find the culprit for his many bruises. His captain, Faf du Plessis, had pleaded for a pitch that helped the pace men and it backfired in more ways than just losing a Test match,” wrote Chappell in his column on ESPNCricinfo.

“I've always believed that pitch preparation should be left entirely to the ground staff. Nobody - captains, coaches or administrators - should have any input into the type of surface provided and if it turns out to be not up to standard, then the curator is the man to question,” Chappell said.

“The good curators are like the best players. They take great pride in their work. The best ones I've spoken to all say a similar thing: "I want the pitch to provide opportunities for all players and a result late on the fifth day."

“Asking them to prepare something other than their preferred surface is a risky proposition and in the case of the Wanderers, a dangerous one. Now, through no fault of his own - other than listening to the South African team request - there's a danger the Wanderers' curator will miss out on future international cricket if there are further complaints about the pitch,” Chappell opined.

It would be pertinent here to recall an incident that took place in the second Test between Sri Lanka and South Africa at the SSC grounds in September 1993. On a surface that had more bounce than the ordinary subcontinent pitches left-arm fast bowler Brett Schutz ran through the Lankan batting line up taking a career best 5/48 in the first innings and 4/58 in the second innings to subject Sri Lanka to their heaviest Test defeat at the time by an innings and 208 runs. Sri Lanka was shot out for totals of 168 and 119 in reply to South Africa’s 495 as they were overwhelmed by Schultz’s pace.

Arjuna Ranatunga the Lankan captain blamed his team’s batting debacle and the defeat on the SSC pitch stating: “If we are to make use of home advantage then we should get wickets to suit our bowling strength. By not getting the right wickets we are not in a position to play to our potential.”

Russell Hamer, the former Sri Lanka cricketer who was then curator of SSC reacting to Ranatunga’s allegations stated, “Since August 1992 when Australia played a Test at the SSC all the pitches were prepared according to the request and instructions given by the cricket manager and the captain.”

Well, so much for allowing pitch preparations to be solely in the hands of the curator.

On the other side of the world a pitch contrary to the one prepared in South Africa at Chittagong, saw Sri Lanka and Bangladesh go on a run-scoring spree where only two and half innings was completed while 1533 runs were scored for the loss of 24 wickets. Records tumbled by the numbers as the pitch turned out to be heartbreak for the bowlers who struggled for success.

Bangladesh scored 513 and 307-5 and Sri Lanka replied with 713-9 declared. For those who are not aware of the stats it was the sixth time Sri Lanka has posted a 700 plus total in Test cricket. No other team has posted 700 plus more than four times in this format. The nearest are West Indies, Australia and India who have scored 700 plus in Test cricket on four occasions each.

Earlier following Bangladesh’s defeat in the one-day tri-series to Sri Lanka, the Bangladesh cricket authorities sought an explanation from their Sri Lankan curator Gamini Silva for preparing a slow wicket in Dhaka. Bangladesh was bowled out for 142 while chasing 222 at the same venue where it had posted 320 for 7 in the league phase against the same opponent.

Officials said the slow wicket was contrary to the requirements of the home team with experts identifying it as one of the main reasons behind the host’s debacle in the final. The former umpire-turned-curator Silva has been in charge of the stadium since 2011.

These incidents only makes one recall a line from the popular Simon and Garfunkel hit song Mrs Robinson: “Every way you look at it you lose.”

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