Ian Chappell on what makes the perfect cricket pitch
Chappell feels a good pitch is one that provides a contest between bat and ball and hopefully a close finish. It can vary from region to region, favouring faster bowlers in some and spinners in others
Sydney: With controversy surrounding the surfaces prepared for Test matches in Nagpur and Adelaide, it's time to ask the question, "Is it the pitches or the performers who are responsible for Test matches being over in the blink of an eye?"
India spinner R Ashwin and teammates go up in appeal for a LBW verdict against South Africa's batting star AB de Villiers during the Nagpur Test on November 27. Pic/AFP
Indian Team Director Ravi Shastri quite rightly made the point that if the ICC was investigating the surface in Nagpur, then why wasn't a similar forensic examination being conducted on the Adelaide pitch, where the match was completed in a similarly short time frame?
I watched some of South Africa's batting in Delhi on a pitch that was even for both sides and I'm not surprised they were exterminated in Nagpur. If South Africa continue to utilise flawed techniques and mindset, it won't matter where they're playing, they'll encounter difficulty.
In many cases the technique and mindset were designed purely for survival. If you allow spinners to dictate terms for long periods with fieldsmen hovering round the bat, on pitches providing assistance, then survival will be brief.
The better the spinner, the more aggressive the batsman's thought process should be, as this promotes decisive footwork rather than a feeling your sprigs are stuck in freshly laid tar. An aggressive thought process doesn't necessarily mean seeking regular boundaries, as a succession of singles can disrupt the line and length of the best spinner.
At least following a boundary, the spinner is still bowling to the same batsman; with a string of singles he's got to constantly change plans and unless he's patient, that will drive him to distraction.
In Adelaide, the debate raged over the amount of grass left on the pitch. Bearing in mind the surface had to cope with Test cricket under lights for the first time and using a different coloured ball, I thought the pitch was fair. It certainly provided a keen contest.
I was accustomed to seeing Australian pitches covered with an even mat of grass and if this again becomes a trend it'll be good for the game. I don't know if it was coincidence but the Test pitch at Bellerive also had a good coverage of grass, which provided encouragement for a West Indies side that is in such disarray they were unable to capitalise.
Both teams have to play on a Test pitch and it's not the curator's fault if one side is either technically unable to cope or is beaten before a ball is delivered. That brings us to the question; "What is a good pitch?"
A good pitch is one that provides a contest between bat and ball and hopefully a close finish. That means a good pitch can vary from region to region; in some places the surface will suit faster bowlers and in others, it'll favour spinners.
A good batsman prides himself on his ability to prosper under any conditions, enjoying whatever challenge is presented. Why should a pitch that spins on the opening day be deemed worse than one that seams first up?
If Test teams are well balanced and capable of performing adequately under any conditions then there would be no advantage gained by preparing "home town pitches".
It's all about technique
In fact a trend towards Test pitches that provide encouragement to bowlers might actually convince batsmen of the need to seek a well-rounded technique; one that's equally adept at combining aggressive and survival techniques.
Cricket has reached the tipping point where the proliferation of the T 20 game is affecting the longer version. If the batting of South Africa in India and the all-round ineptitude of the West Indies in Australia is any guide, then it's all facets of Test cricket —including captaincy — that are being diluted.
I found the Adelaide Test enthralling but what preceded it on a dull Perth pitch and then followed at Bellerive with a lifeless and utterly inept West Indies team, less than inspiring.
There's certainly need for an investigation but it should be looking at how cricket is evolving and what is the best way for the game to progress. It's time to start looking at the players and stop blaming the curators.
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