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New Zealand pitches need fine-tuning, says expert

Admitting that the pitches in New Zealand, prepared under express directives of New Zealand Cricket to promote pace and bounce, were not ideal, an expert has said that they needed a little fine-tuning to improve their all-round suitability.

india Updated: Jan 13, 2003 21:58 IST

Admitting that the pitches in New Zealand, prepared under express directives of New Zealand Cricket to promote pace and bounce, were not ideal, an expert has said that they needed a little fine-tuning to improve their all-round suitability.

New Zealand Turf Culture Institute guru Keith McAuliffe said nearly all the pitches India played on during their month long tour were new and had a lot of grass because of a new policy by New Zealand Cricket to push for more pace, bounce and lateral movement.

"This has been achieved and our pitches are not the slow, low dungers they were in the past," McAuliffe was quoted as saying by a website.

"(But) You could perhaps argue that fine tuning is now needed to minimise the sideways movement," he said.

McAuliffe, who was a part of the expert panel which studied the pitches in India and submitted a report to the Cricket Board on ways to improve them, said the ideal pitch was still the one which had something for all kinds of bowlers, including spinners, and the batsmen.

"You would not want spinners getting their wickets too easily on pitches that were too thatchy or too powdery.

"Our turf managers are doing a much better job of renovating their pitches to remove plant material or thatch but it would be in everyone's interest if pitches did dust up in long duration matches," he said.

There was also a need to get the surfaces even harder and McAuliffe said it would be necessary to look at some of the clays being used.

"Clays that are difficult to dry are difficult to harden," McAuliffe said.

"However, I don't think pitches are the only things causing the sideways movement," he said. "Another contributing factor is the amount of movement through the air.

This is caused by the fact that nearly all the grounds in this country are enclosed.

"They are enclosed, they have sand-based outfields which need a lot of watering and our grasses are rye-based which also need a lot of water," he said.

When sun gets on wetter outfields it creates greater movement through the air.

McAuliffe said changing the type of grasses was not really an option because of their multi-use nature.

New Zealand turf managers were now growing grass pretty well, he said, but he wondered if they might be over-doing it.

McAuliffe said the use of hessian cloth to cover pitches during the days immediately before matches was because of the fear that pitches would dry out too quickly, especially when pitches are ready a day or two early and the ground staff want to hold them in their conditions.

But he wondered if they might be better off letting them deteriorate just a little, although that could be cause for some debate when turf managers have their end of season debrief with New Zealand Cricket's operations manager John Reid.

First Published: Jan 13, 2003 21:58 IST