Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Time to standardise pitches?

(Also on http://www.cricketakash.com/)
What makes a good Test match?

Without getting into the nuts and bolts of it, you need (a) the pitch to be batsman-friendly for the first couple of days, (b) the pitch become a spinners’ game as it wears on into the last day, (c) two or three centuries, (d) about 35-37 wickets, and (e) a result.

Simple, right?

Let’s break it down further. The first innings should last just over a day-and-a-half, the second innings should last about a day-and-a-half, the third about a day and the fourth slightly less – not counting the possibility of declarations.

What you need then is a pitch that starts out with the ball bouncing and moving around a bit – so that the pacers get a few wickets in the first hour of the first day. Then the batsmen come into play and see out the day without losing too many more wickets. On the second day, the pacers become effective only for the first half an hour. By the fourth day, the spinners start becoming effective. And on the fifth day, spin is all the works.

If you accept this as the basic template of a Test match, my suggestion might make sense to you. If you don’t accept this as the template, let’s chat some other time.

Right – my suggestion: put together a committee that standardises pitches across the world. It’s not a wholly original idea, but it’s a good time to revive it. Yes, home advantage must be there. An Indian pitch must be batsman and spin-friendly while Australian pitches must be pace friendly. But the science of making pitches must be brought into play. How can curators get away with preparing dead and daft pitches like the one in Ahmedabad? Not the first one in India in recent times.

So bring Fat Andy Atkinson back. Or get someone else to head the committee. You can’t force teams to play for draws and against losses, but the conditions must be made such that teams are forced to pull at all stops to negotiate.
Do you think crowds won’t come to the grounds if they know a result will in all probability happen? I don’t think so. I’m sure that if a result is promised, or a tough, grinding draw is promised, the crowds will be excited. But the more we make Ahmedabad happen, the more we will ensure that Test cricket dies away. Unless, of course, that’s what the IPL-obsessed cricket bosses actually want.