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Sticky wicket: Board pitching it all wrong

The 50-over World Cup, which India is co-hosting with Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, is about eight-nine months away and the health of the wickets at most of our World Cup centres, last put to use during the Indian Premier League, isn’t too great. Subhash Rajta reports.

cricket Updated: May 20, 2010 00:08 IST
Subhash Rajta

You name it and the Indian cricket board (BCCI) has a committee for it. Right from the more important Selection, Finance and Marketing committees, it also has one called the ‘Museum Committee’.

The only one missing from an exhaustive list is the Ground and Pitches Committee, which the BCCI disbanded last December, holding it responsible for the Ferozeshah Kotla fiasco.

More than five months have gone by, but the Board doesn’t look like it’s going to have one in the foreseeable future. “We are neither thinking of reinstating the old committee, nor are there any plans to have a new one at the moment,” said a top BCCI official.

That’s quite astonishing given that the 50-over World Cup, which India is co-hosting with Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, is about eight-nine months away and the health of the wickets at most of our World Cup centres, last put to use during the Indian Premier League, isn’t too great.

Players complained on and off about the sluggish nature of wickets during the IPL, but here’s a statistic that shows that the wickets are slowing down with an increase in the cricket. The success rate of the teams batting second dropped to nearly 46 per cent this IPL from a high 57 percent in IPL I.

The wickets do need mending and while the odd consultant from abroad is brought in and local associations have their own set-ups that work according to their local needs, there’s no controlling body to oversee matters or implement necessary changes.

“The May to September period is vital for relaying or mending wickets. If we don’t work on the wickets now, there’s little that can be done later. And given that the World Cup will happen at the end of the season (Feb-March) on worn out wickets, it will take great effort to keep them in right shape,” a top state curator told Hindustan Times.

On how much help the International Cricket Council’s curators, who occasionally visit the centres ahead of the World Cup, will be, he said: “The ICC representatives generally review the work on the wickets and also pass on advice to the local curators. But they are in and out. Having our own central committee would have been of far greater help.”

Besides, the disbanding of the committee has apparently put an end to seminars and workshops for the curators. “Most of us found these workshops and seminars really useful. Apart from learning modern methods for the upkeep of wickets, we also learnt how to handle the equipment provided to us,” said Sunil Chauhan, a curator with the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association. Incidentally, the Dharamsala wicket turned out to be one of the best during the IPL.

Daljit Singh, chairman of the sacked committee, also felt the board should reconstitute the committee.

“I think the Grounds and Pitches Committee did a very good job over the years. It trained enough to people carry out the job even if the committee was not around. Personally, we should find some good hands and continue with it,” he said.

Ranjib Biswal, the tour manager for India’s disastrous World T20, has reportedly recommended that India need to play on bouncy tracks to handle the rising ball — a major shortcoming in Barbados.

“We do feel that domestic games at least need to be played on fast wickets,” said a national selector, “if the wickets for domestic games remain as dead as they are, where will youngsters learn”.

For all that, we need a Pitches Committee. Everyone knows it but the BCCI brass.