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Demons in Dambulla pitch or mass paranoia?

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Since its very first international match – an ODI between England and Sri Lanka in March 2001 – the pitch at the Rangiri Dambulla International Stadium has been criticised for producing low scoring matches.

Where on the subcontinent batsmen are accustomed to bashing bowlers black and blue, and amassing large totals in what some would say is a largely one-sided affair to begin with, Dambulla has been criticised for making the lives of batsmen too tough.

In the first match played at Dambulla back in 2001, England – batting first – only managed to score 143. It took Sri Lanka 40 overs and five balls to surpass England’s low score which the hosts managed to chase at a low run rate of 3.52. On that occasion – with Dambulla being a new venue – the low scoring affair was attributed to pitch consultant Andy Atkinson having just eight weeks to prepare the surface.

Nine years later, after an Indian batting line up considered to be the best in the business was destroyed, dismissed for 88 by New Zealand – not for the first time – with pace and bounce, the pitch at Dambulla has become the focus of attention again.

Murmurs that the wicket is tough to bat on have now been transformed into complaints that claim it is impossible to chase under lights, and the toss determines the outcome of the game. Skipper Kumar Sangakkara even told the media recently that playing day and night matches in the whole subcontinent needed to be re-evaluated as it was becoming harder to chase under lights.

“The concept of day-night ODIs needs to be looked at,” said Sangakkara. “It’s not good to have the toss decide so many games, or whether you bat earlier or later. Ideally, personally speaking I would like to see only day matches or only night matches. But sponsors and broadcasters obviously feel day-night matches are the way to go, and we play according to the conditions and norms we are given. It’s a concern since it’s not a level-playing field at most times.”

Let’s take a look at the numbers to determine what’s really going on here.

As of 13 August 2010, Dambulla has seen 38 ODI matches played there and 20 of those games have been won by the team batting second.

Of the 38 matches played in Dambulla 22 have been day and night matches. And from those 22 matches, the team batting second under lights have won 10.

Despite the notion that it is hard to bat under lights, the stats show that teams have fared almost equally well whether batting first or second.

The highest score made at Dambulla is Pakistan’s 385/7 against Bangladesh during the Asia Cup in June this year. But, teams have surpassed 260 runs at the venue only 13 times.

The Dambulla pitch may not be a batsman’s dream surface, but there are no demons in the surface.

There also appears to be no distinct advantage in winning the toss if the team batting second is willing to apply themselves and chase down their target conservatively.

Dambulla evens the playing field in Asia where bowlers find themselves faced with tough conditions to bowl in, on wickets that provide no assistance to them.

Because most captains these days are batsman, it’s easy to fall prey to their biased views on any surface that makes their lives a little tougher. But cricket is not about Sachin Tendulkar scoring 200 runs in an 50 over encounter, or Kumar Sangakkara driving a good length ball on the up though the covers on one bent knee on a placid pitch. Cricket is also not a tussle between just the batsmen from two teams; bowlers and fielders need to play a role as well.

Dambulla is an oasis in the Asian desert for bowlers who struggle year after year on tracks that favour only batsmen.

10 Comments

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    • I understand what you mean,
      I understand what you mean, but we can’t let the outcome of a game be decided on what the advertisers and sponsors want either. The game has to take it’s natural course and we shouldn’t make the surface at every venue “batsman friendly.”

  1. hm.. i really doubt dat …
    hm.. i really doubt dat … jus cause dese indians cant play a match and get all out for 88.. dey make dis big fusss… hw sad dis is ,.. and wen newzealand can score 288 on dis same pitch .. y cant de indians score ?? is it da PItch or the teams failure ???

    stop blamin the pitch and play cricket.. 🙂

  2. Cricket has always been a
    Cricket has always been a battle between the skills of the batsmen and the skills of the bowlers, with support from the fielders. If a batsman or bowler is skilled on only one surface, then he should not complain if he is mediocre on another surface. Cricket officials often prepare pitches to suit their key players. This is not new. Cricketers do have bad and very bad days. I know I have. But, generally speaking, if the players are good enough, they will perform well everywhere. They just should not complain when they have a bad day.

  3. I think Srilankan lion is
    I think Srilankan lion is right. Its not the pitch, its the players play on it. If india got out cheaply, they are (media) always coming up with these pathetic excuses.

    Team India – Dont blame on pitches, blame your selves!

  4. There are valid technical
    There are valid technical reasons why Dambulla pitch is behaving in totally different ways in the two sessions and these things are being discussed these days in Dilmah CN in detail. I can summarize some of these reasons

    (1) Geographically the ground is not located in the correct place. If they wanted to have it closer to the lake it should have been located closer to one of two ends which is perpendicular to the wind direction. Reasons.
    – As the relative humidity and dew formation increase in the evening, strong winds migrate moisture particles (from the lake area) directly on to the ground and precipitation will start on the pitch surface.

    (2)Study will be initiated very soon with SLC, Andy Atkinson (ICC pitch consultant) and a DCN member to find a way to overcome this problem

    We should not blame cricketers as it is totally unfair to construct a pitch which varies in its properties considerably in the two sessions

    • @ Susantha J, I cannot aggree
      @ Susantha J, I cannot aggree with your comments,Like you are saying if the pitch is to blame for low scoring games in Dambulla, what about the last match between India and New zealand???

      Earlier in the New zealand innings they were 3 wickets down cheaply, but thanks to a suppurb 4th wicket stand between taylor and styris they scored 288. Did’nt so called “moisture particles” existed that afternoon???
      In that same evening,on that same wicket India were balled out for 88. How odd is that???

      Is’nt that sheer briliance from the part of New Zealand Black caps?

  5. Coolbunny 100,
    In my last

    Coolbunny 100,

    In my last post I have given the reasons (like climatic conditions) why the pitch is behaving indifferently in the two sessions. In tropical countries like SL, weather pattern changes dramatically in the evening. Relative Humidity and Dew formation increase in the evening, thereby increasing the precipitation of moisture on the pitch surface which has a direct effect on the pitch behaviour. However this variation in pitch properties depends on the initial moisture of the pitch just before the start of the match (either dry pitch or fresh/slightly damp pitch).

    In the first match NZ seam bowlers bowled beautifully hitting the right areas and exploited the conditions pretty well and the Indian batters didnt have an answer (all out for 88).

    You may get a better picture on this subject if you refer to so many posts appeared in Dilmah CN where the Pitch matters are discussed in detail.

    Susantha J

  6. I really enjoy watching
    I really enjoy watching matches on Dambulla, beacuse in this surface you need patience, courage & skill to to score well, bashers & master blasters might fail on this wicket,

    Having said that in the last game we saw Sehawag was playing rather sedate innings coz he has identified that u need to apply ur self in order to thrive on this wicket.

    As for the Sri Lankans Mahela is the top scorer at this venue, again justifying the fact that you need to be patient & full of skills to be successfull on this pitch.

    I clearly agree with Hilal on the fact that true cricket lovers don’t necessarily want to see sixes flying all over the park, rather a competition between bat & ball.

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