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    February 26, 2009

    ICC's cosmetic approach to the problem of poor pitches

    Sambit Bal rightly argues that there were actually two pitch fiascos in the last fortnight - Antigua and Karachi.

    It has been a constant argument on this blog that pitches that totally favour batsmen are as bad for cricket as pitches that totally favour bowlers. If a pitch that produces a result in 2 days is bad, a pitch that could potentially have the 3rd innings commence a week after the game started is also bad.

    If the pitches in New Zealand on India's tour there in 2002/03, Wankhede (India v Australia 2004), Wanderers (South Africa v New Zealand 2006) and the various locations in the 2006 ICC Champions Trophy are not considered to be good pitches (because they aided bowlers excessively), the pitches at Lahore & Faisalabad (Pakistan v India 2006), Wanderers (South Africa v Australia 2006), Adelaide (Australia v India 2008), Chepauk (India v South Africa 2008) and Bangalore & in general during Australia's tour of India in 2008 are guilty of aiding batsmen excessively. I'm sure I've missed out on several other instances (across both types of wickets)

    In 2006, the ICC announced guidelines and standards for pitches and outfields. Today, the ICC has augmented those guidelines with additional requirements from host country boards, that of notifying the ICC every February about what venues will be used in the next year (imagine the BCCI actually being forced to plan a year in advance!) and solemnly declare that those grounds complied with the standards. The categories or basis on which a pitch is rated are declared in the pitch monitoring guidelines. It is interesting to note that a pitch is rated poor if
    • The pitch offers excessive seam movement at any stage of the match
    • The pitch displays excessive unevenness of bounce for any bowler at any stage of the match
    • The pitch offers excessive assistance to spin bowlers, especially early in the match
    I'm fairly sure those guidelines were framed by a committee of 25 top-order batsmen! There's absolutely no mention of rating a pitch as poor on the basis of not having any bounce or seam movement or assistance to spin.

    Ok, so let's go back to February 2008. The WICB has just informed the ICC that the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium was going to host the 2nd test against England in a year's time and it promised compliance. Yet, it just did nothing to improve the outfield and a year later, the game was called off because of a poor outfield. What could the ICC do based on the match referee's report & the WICB's explanation? It could warn, impose a financial penalty or take away international status for that ground for a limited duration. So how different is that from the current procedure where there is no undertaking or declaration by the host country board?

    The ICC had a great opportunity to enforce better standards, especially for test cricket given it's the form of the game drawing the least spectator and audience interest. It missed the bus.

    So what's the solution? Here's a radical suggestion, which has perhaps also been suggested earlier by other more learned folks. The game should be awarded to the visiting team if the umpires and match referees call off the match on account of a poor pitch/outfield. There needs to be a significant deterrence which forces boards, curators and home teams into not overly exploiting conditions (either way).

    Obviously when the venue is neutral, this won't be too useful. But there have actually only been 9 tests played on neutral grounds in 1900+ tests spread over 132 years of test cricket. I guess since neutral venues are far more likely in ODIs (31% of all games) and T20 (40% of all games), the solution is to declare a 'no-result' in those forms of the game.

    PS: Just noticed, while clicking on a link in one of the previous posts here, that is now the proud possession of a domain-squatter.

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    Thus spake Jagadish @ 11:19 pm |
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    2 sledge(s):

    I like the idea of awarding the match to the visiting team. This will enforce the hosting board, hosting Manager & Captain to whip the board to make sure they get their acts right.

    By Blogger Mahadevan (27-Feb-2009, 1:59:00 am)  

    Couldn't agree more.

    By Anonymous Gonzo (28-Feb-2009, 6:52:00 pm)  

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