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Pitch battle, BCCI shores up defence

With security concerns forcing an eleventh hour change of venues, groundsmen at Mohali and Chennai have been left with a serious task ahead, reports Anand Vasu.

cricket Updated: Dec 03, 2008 23:32 IST
Anand Vasu

ith security concerns forcing an eleventh hour change of venues, groundsmen at Mohali and Chennai have been left with a serious task ahead and not too much time at their disposal.

The advantage they have is that the Board of Control for Cricket in India, acting through Daljit Singh, the chief curator, has already put in place a robust system to develop playing surfaces. As recently as November 15, the pitches committee met, taking some decisions that will have both a short and long-term effect.

Firstly, each association has been asked to develop at least four secondary grounds on which first-class matches can be played. The Board has also stipulated that each association appoint a professionally qualified person — someone with a BSc. degree in agriculture — to enhance the knowledge of the existing groundsmen.

The Board is also putting in place a system where the pitches of the 9 Test and 21 ODI venues will be evaluated. Each pitch will be given points on a set of different criteria, with a final figure being reached.

The BCCI has already supplied most venues with equipment they need to maintain pitches and outfields and conducted seminars to keep groundsmen updated of the requirements needed to meet a “standard” pitch.

In addition to this, zonal groundsmen will now travel to domestic matches to witness first hand just how a pitch is performing. Things like underground drainage and sprinkler systems have been deemed as mandatory for all Test venues.

Around the world, pitch preparation is left to expert curators, with a strip at a venue bearing specific identifiable characteristics.

In England, for example, Leeds is different from Lord's and neither is quite like Trent Bridge. In Australia the WACA bears little resemblance to the surface at Sydney or Adelaide.

The Board has also taken note of the fact that playing on different surfaces will enable batsmen and bowlers to develop the all-round skills required to combat a variety of conditions.

In the Ranji Trophy this year there have been a slew of high scores, with batsmen notching up double and triple-hundreds even as matches are decided solely on the basis of first-innings leads.

At the other extreme, teams desperate to secure outright wins — like Delhi at home v Orissa recently — have served up green seamers, causing matches to end in two days.

The BCCI wants to ensure that there is no chance of such an occurrence at the international level, and to that end has put this detailed plan in place.