Pitches and inconsistent match referees

By Rex Clementine | July 15, 2012

The SSC wicket was a poor advertisement for Test cricket. © AFPEveryone agrees that the interest for Test cricket is dwindling. But what is being done to maintain the interest in the five-day format is disappointing. Sri Lanka vice-captain Angelo Mathews termed the second Test his side played against Pakistan at SSC as ‘boring’. Pakistan coach Dav Whatmore was more forthwith.

"It was one way traffic really. I am not sure you can mark that wicket as good. Those 600 runs I am not sure whether that’s going to be inspiring to get results anyway," Whatmore told journalists after the game.

Whatmore didn’t stop there. He gave further insight into why the zip that existed in the SSC wicket in the first hour, when he was Sri Lanka’s coach, had been missing.

"There was a little bit in it every morning in a Test Match on that wicket. Now, with the use of sponges overnight under the covers it seems to take away that little edge that you always found in that first half an hour to an hour every morning," Whatmore explained.

That pitch wasn’t reported by the ICC match referee. But unless it is done, we are going to witness more high scoring encounters at the SSC that end in dull draws.

When India played at SSC in 2010, Sri Lanka declared after piling up 600 plus and India responded with 700 plus. The match ended in a draw and didn’t help anyone except for some stars to swell their career averages. Along with that SSC pitch, the one that Pakistan and Sri Lanka played the second Test on a fortnight ago, should have been reported and authorities should have been told to do something to make the game an even contest. Christ Broad was the match referee in the first instance during the Sri Lanka-India clash.

The same Chris Broad was the match referee when Sri Lanka hosted Australia in Galle in 2011. The pitch was dry and offered plenty of assistance for spin bowlers on that occasion but batsmen with substance survived. Mahela Jayawardene scored a century in the fourth innings, while Angelo Mathews scored 95 runs. But they couldn’t prevent Australia from recording a 125 run win. That pitch was reported. However, everyone missed the point. Galle was the only Test that produced a result during Australia’s tour of Sri Lanka with the next two Tests ending in dull draws.

After the match referee reported the pitch, the Galle surface was made to go through ‘corrective measures’ and ICC pitch expert Andy Atkinson was in Galle; the pitch was dug up and relaid.

The next Test played in Galle, after it was forced to go through ‘corrective measures’, was the first Test between England and Sri Lanka and Chris Broad’s son Stuart Broad was leading England’s bowling attack.

It wasn’t the first occasion where match referees have been inconsistent in assessing pitches and Chris Broad features in them prominently.

During Sri Lanka’s ill-fated tour of Pakistan in 2009, in the first Test in Karachi, Sri Lanka batted first and declared on 644 for seven. Pakistan responded with 765 for six. A triple-century and two double-centuries were scored but the pitch didn’t get reported. Chris Broad was again the match referee.

During Sri Lanka’s tour of South Africa last year, the first Test at Centurion was played on a green track where there was live grass. It was a dangerous track and exposed players to serious injuries but match referee (Chris Broad) didn’t have any issues with it, despite captains of both sides slamming the pitch.

Result-oriented wickets like in Galle which test a batsman's skill, technique and character should not be damned. Instead, tracks like the one at SSC should be for they do no good to the great game.

© Rex Clementine/The Island

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