International Cricket Council pitch consultant Andy Atkinson was fixing up the roof of his house in Essex, England when he received a call last Tuesday to come over to Mumbai and repair the pitch at the Brabourne stadium, one of the venues of the ongoing Champions Trophy.
The Brabourne pitch has been criticised after the first two matches dished out low scores. Atkinson, who supervised the preparation of the pitches in all the four Champions Trophy centres, will use a new method that is relatively new to international cricket in India.
On Friday morning, hours before New Zealand take on Sri Lanka, Atkinson will spray the entire length of the pitch (the same strip where New Zealand defeated South Africa on Monday) with Poly-Vinyl Acetate (PVA) to bind the surface.
Atkinson, who employed a similar method in the practice pitches on Thursday after arriving in Mumbai at 2 am, said: “The glue is used to stabilise the surface and stop it from getting dusty. I hope it holds the surface together.”
The 51-year-old, who is also overlooking the preparation of the pitches for next year’s World Cup in the West Indies, explained the simple method of how the pitch is glued. “We get the pitch prepared as normal. We spray the glue -- which is a 1:2 proportion of PVA and water -- evenly on the surface the night before the game or the morning of the match. This spraying takes about 25 minutes. Then we leave the pitch to bind for an hour-and-a-half before using a light roller on it. It is ready to play.”
The method, however, is not new in international cricket. Atkinson said: “It has been used over the years in New Zealand. It was used in a Test match at Eden Park (Auckland) in the mid-1990s where Gary Kirsten scored a hundred and Darryl Cullinan scored a double century. The method was practiced for preparing one-day pitches. Last year at Old Trafford, the PVA was used as the wickets were breaking. They found it holding the wicket together. Every county has also done it in the English season.”
Atkinson said that the glue would not totally change the behaviour of the pitch. “Even if bounce is low, it would be even bounce and won’t break the surface. In one-dayers, it holds the surface for full 100 overs.”
PVA is nothing new. It is the builder’s adhesive, commonly available in hardware shops and used to give an extra coating on the walls to bind the structure.
Atkinson said that he watched only a couple of matches in Ahmedabad and Mohali and that he watched only 15-20 minutes of the New Zealand-South Africa game at the CCI. He also added that he would be staying back in CCI to help prepare the pitch for the final on November 5.
“We will see how the PVA works tomorrow (Friday) and if all goes well, will employ it for the final also.”
Having a closer look at the Brabourne surface, Atkinson said that there were some cracks in it “but that is not a major concern. Cricket pitches all over the world have cracks on them”.
While not intending to criticise the local groundsmen for the behaviour of the pitch in the first few matches, Atkinson said: “Pitches look good with a good grass cover on it. But too much grass has been taken off for this tournament. They should have left a bit more grass. I am here not to criticise them but to help them. During my time here, I will help them so that it is beneficial in the long run.”