Flat pitches a further concern for cricket

March 4, 2009

To those uninitiated with cricket, to hear complaints about a playing surface being ‘flat’ would only further confuse them. As if the game, also hit by tragedy this week, wasn’t complex enough.

Now, a recent trend of high scores has led to criticism from some of the game’s former players, who are equally baffled by pitches that serve up nothing more than run feasts.

A list of highest test innings above 600 includes five totals all scored in the last couple of weeks, and two of those make the top 10.

This is not to say that all is bad in world cricket.

A glance at the recent first test match between South Africa and Australia shows how cricket ought to be.

There was life in the pitch from day one, and with the Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg being at altitude the ball is more likely to swing. Yet Australia’s number nine batsman, Mitchell Johnson, was still able to score 96 not out in the first innings.

Nevertheless, with all the adverse publicity for cricket emanating from Allen Stanford’s controversial 20 million dollar match last year and his recent fraud charges, the last thing the sport needs is to alienate itself from further potential followers.

While the shorter form of the game continues to grow in popularity, test match cricket played over five days cannot be ignored.

There have been calls to bring back uncovered pitches and to change the ball every 50 overs (currently the new ball is available every 80 overs).

Can anything else be done to help save five-day cricket?

PHOTO: England’s Andrew Strauss watches a Shivnarine Chanderpaul shot go for four during the fourth test match at Bridgetown, Feb. 28, 2009. REUTERS/Philip Brown

10 comments

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Under Steve Waugh, Australia stepped up the tempo of test cricket to such an extent that matches began finishing regularly in four days. This, of course, didn’t please the television companies and by coincidence or not pitches have become increasingly more bland. For example there hasn’t been a result at Lord’s since 2005.

Posted by John | Report as abusive

Interesting. But I still don’t know what “flat” means!
Has there ever been a cricket game played on ice/snow?

Posted by Frithiof August Wilhelmsen | Report as abusive

I’m not sure either. I mean, aren’t all sports pitches flat? Are you saying they should play on slopes?

Posted by laurus | Report as abusive

yes, i think something needs to be done asap… to stop test cricket becoming a bore-fest..

Posted by Jota | Report as abusive

Is the problem that there aren’t enough really fast bowlers? There’s a particular lack of quicks at the moment and perhaps that’s what’s making the pitches looks so flat.

Posted by Kevin Fylan | Report as abusive

Kevin has a point – the other day I saw one of the British newspapers described Fidel Edwards as “the fastest bowler in the world”. It sounded ridiculous until I started trying to think of a faster bowler currently playing test cricket (ie not injured or ICL banned).

Fidel probably is the fastest but there really aren’t many good quicks around.

Having said that – too many tracks are easy to bat on and there are concerns that some of the balls are getting too soft too quick.

The ICC has to give groundsmen the clear view that test matches that finish in four days are fine and that they should produce tracks that gradually worsen making fourth day batting tricky again. The TV companies could help by making clear they don’t mind if they get an exciting test that is over in four days. That makes better tv than a bore draw surely?

If we wanted to shift the balance a bit back towards an equal battle – then there is a strong case for the new ball after 50 overs argument.

Posted by Simon | Report as abusive

Interesting points made. Thanks. To clarify, a ‘flat’ track is one that offers little to the bowler, which is pointless for test cricket as 20 opposition wickets must be taken in order to win a match. In 50 over games, or twenty20s, sheer amount of runs can win a team the match.

John, I can’t believe there hasn’t been a result at Lord’s for almost 4 years! Though looking at the Aussies right now they’ll probably hammer England.

Kev. Good point. After so many great bowlers over the last 20 years or so (Warne, Ambrose, Walsh, McGrath, Donald, Kumble, Akram, and Murali and Leverock (both still going), crikey there have been loads) perhaps more emphasis is now being put on batting at test and grassroots level, hence the apparent dearth of ‘great’ bowlers.

Simon. Totally agree. Groundsmen are clearly being pressured into preparing even tracks. Perhaps this is another credit crunch example. Cricket is suffering, therefore more tv hours and gate receipts helps to stave off the full force of the global recession. Interesting.

Posted by Tom | Report as abusive

[...] Tom Pilcher, on Reuter's blog-post, digs up a few more statistical gems , notably: [...]

[...] Tom Pilcher, on Reuter's blog-post, digs up a few more statistical gems , notably: [...]

Stuart Broad has joined the debate – http://uk.reuters.com/article/cricketNew s/idUKL837480520090308?sp=true

Something needs to be done.

Posted by Graham | Report as abusive

Thanks Graham. Broad’s comments have been on the tv this morning and the debate will surely continue.
Call me cynical but I think the West Indian groundsmen are being told to prepare flat tracks to ensure more tv time and better gate receipts.
On a positive note, South African groundsmen have got it spot on again for the second test against Australia. The pitch offers both batsmen and bowlers the chance to take the upper hand. Well done those men.

Posted by Tom | Report as abusive

I should mention, given my earlier comment, that Mitchell Johnson had a very lively spell against South Africa on Saturday. A rival for Edwards, perhaps, Simon?
http://blog.thecricfanclub.com/2009/03/0 7/mitchell-johnson-bowled-the-spell-of-h is-life/

Posted by Kevin Fylan | Report as abusive