Thursday, June 26, 2008

Home Sweet Home?

Even a moderate cricket follower can predict the type of pitch you would expect for a Test match at Perth. Similarly, you wouldn't need too many guesses to figure out how the pitch at Headingly would behave. Sydney's always been a turner, Galle's conducive to swing bowling and the Wanderers usually has something for both batsmen and bowlers.

But predicting a pitch for a Test match in Pakistan is not too different from guessing who would be managing Real Madrid next season. I've witnessed games with green tops, slow turners and completely flat decks, all at the same ground. Keeping in mind that Pakistan does not have a fixed international cricket season at home, the variable weather conditions for each series only adds to the level of uncertainty for the preparation of the home side.

All this means that each pitch is prepared based on the type of opponents, the situation of the series, and (probably of least significance to the Board) Pakistan's own strengths and weaknesses. I say this after helplessly watching countless matches where Pakistan's world class bowling attacks of yesteryear were forced to churn out sadistic amounts of overs on dead, spinner friendly tracks. The strategy has always appeared to be to exploit the opposition's weaknesses rather than to facilitate our own strengths. Not only is this nauseatingly defensive, but it also shows lack of character and thinking by so many of our boards and management (ad-hoc or not).

So you can forgive the Pakistan team to some degree for their unpredictability, at least when they play at home. I think its about time there are fixed curators for each ground itself, not just foreign specialists brought in on a series by series basis. And each ground should be allowed to have their own flavor of pitch. Its not surprising that Australia are so good at adapting to different conditions since they have plenty of practice playing at a variety of pitches at home.

And it would do good to spectators, organizers and players to have a fixed international season rather than having to fill in domestic tours at times when the team isn't touring abroad. The October to December and February to April slots would appear ideal considering the weather and other international seasons (England play during the summer, while Australia have the winter).

Provided the team is assured of consistent pitches and weather conditions, they are bound to perform more consistently.

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