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Sight Screen

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Pitch perfect

Last Tuesday, we had referred to reports that match referee Clive Lloyd had called for an ICC inspection of the Motera pitch.
Dileep Premchandran, on Cricinfo, counters the match referee's case, such as it is.
The reality is that the Delhi and Ahmedabad surfaces were no worse than many others prepared around the world. Perhaps the sight of slow bowlers taking so many wickets was an eyesore for a man who hardly ever included one in his side, but there was nothing sinister at work. Unlike the early '90s, when designer crumblers were the norm, Indian pitches these days involve plenty of hard work for the spinners too. There may have been the odd exception, like the Mumbai special that defeated Australia last year, but that was certainly no more diabolical than the two trampolines that New Zealand dished out on India's last tour there - Hamilton saw first innings scores of 99 and 94.
Rather than celebrate the distinct nature of pitches in different parts of the world, this latest episode seems to suggest a yearning for uniformity and blandness that does the game no good at all. Ball may certainly have dominated bat in the two India-Sri Lanka Tests played to a finish, but in a batsman-dominated world, that was something to celebrate, not condemn. Hopefully, the ICC will see sense, send the alleged report to the dustbin where it belongs, and focus on issues that matter - like dodgy actions and Zimbabwe.

The headline of the piece uses the word 'prejudice' -- and it is apt. If bad pitches are an ICC preoccupation, fine, no quarrels -- let the global body assess all pitches around the world and make determinations. But when one official out of the blue targets one particular pitch (seemingly not because of how it behaved this time round, but because of how it acted ages ago, when he played on it), you tend to raise eyebrows.
Incidentally, in that earlier post, we had posted a trivia question on the only known instance of a game being abandoned due to a poor quality pitch. That was in January 1998, when the first Test between the West Indies and England was called off after the pitch was deemed too dangerous to play on. The venue? Sabina Park. The West Indies team manager for that series? Clive Lloyd.
The views expressed by commentators from either side on the nature of the wicket?
"This pitch is not fit for Test cricket or even club cricket for that matter. It is completely substandard. Our fast bowlers don't want to seriously injure anyone," said Holding. "It is an embarrassment."
Botham was similarly scathing. "The pitch is not worthy of international cricket. It is a disgrace. Someone is going to get seriously hurt," he said.

The view of the match referee?
Barry Jarman, the match referee, was distraught at having to call the match off. "I am crying tears and blood. People have come from England just to watch this match. My heart goes out to them."

And finally, this is what Clive Lloyd had to say on that occasion:
"It is very sad because thousands have turned up to watch the match and it is disappointing for them. Cricket never fails to surprise me. It is just unfortunate at the moment but that is what has happened."

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