India captain Virat Kohli stated before the second Test that the 22-yard strip at the Optus Stadium in Perth was something his side was excited about. He also encouraged the curator not to shave the grass that was on the deck 24-hours before the match. Whispers had already spread around Perth that the pitch was full of spice and the chances are that the Test was only going to last three days.
There was also the talk that the pitch could resemble the one that India had played on against South Africa at the Wanderers earlier this year. The Wanderers pitch received a ‘poor' rating by the ICC. However, Kohli was quick to dismiss the comparisons between the Wanderers pitch and the one at Optus Stadium before the match even started "I have played all around the world for 10 years now and I have never played on a wicket like the one at Johannesburg" he said.
Kohli was spot-on, the pitch was nothing like Johannesburg, In fact, it produced an absorbing contest and if there was a sting in India's tail the match could well have gone deep in the final day. What else did anyone want from a pitch? However, the ICC deemed the surface as ‘average', the lowest rating.
ICC's rating of the Perth surface sparked rage across the cricketing world. Mitchell Johnson questioned the decision before sarcastically stating in a tweet "I'd actually be interested in knowing what a good pitch is? Johnson was absolutely right. Even Sachin Tendulkar was perplexed by the rating. This was a surface that was almost ‘perfect' for Test cricket accordingly to all past cricketers and experts, so ICC's decision to rate it ‘average' was a debacle.
The ICC introduced a disciplinary system at the start of the year in a bid to improve the standard of pitches around the world and can provide six ratings – very good, good, average, below average, poor and unfit – when rating Test venues.
It is difficult to understand on what condition match referee Ranjan Madugalle rated the pitch as 'average'? Yes, there were cracks in the pitch on Day four and five, but that is nature of the soil in Perth. Five years ago, Ben Stokes made a hundred on a pitch at the WACA that had cracks as wide as the width of two fingers. That pitch wasn't marked ‘average' nor was it dangerous.
In fact, so good was the surface at Perth that it provided everything that a spectator wants to experience. Kohli struck a masterful ton, Nathan Lyon took eight wickets on it, Mohammad Shami feasted on it and Marcus Harris prospered on it on the opening morning against the new ball. Apart from the time when the brittle Indian tail came out to bat, there was always a contest between bat and ball. For the last five years, curators around the world have tried their best to ensure its fight between the willow and the red cherry. Perth was a great advertisement for Test cricket and somehow ICC had found a way to spoil it.
Importantly, neither side complained about it privately or in the media, a further indication that both parties were satisfied with it. Yes, there were a few deliveries that rapped batsmen on the knuckles, but apart from the oddball on the fourth day it wasn't as if a ball had reared off a good length. There was no prodigious seam, it was the just the pace of the wicket. Combating uneven bounce during the later stages of the Test match are part and parcel of the game.
Australian coach Justin Langer praised the pitch saying "Anyone who says there's anything wrong with that wicket, they must have been watching a different game."
ICC should be made aware that for the majority of the Test match it was the nature and the intrigue of the surface that allowed the cricketing public to be glued to the TV sets. This was Test cricket at its purest. How often are Test matches as engrossing? For the last few years, the pitches have either been tailor-made for batting or far too conducive for the bowlers, for once the curator had managed to inject life into a drop-in pitch to produce a riveting contest and it had been knocked by the global governing body.
For once it had seemed like the curators had got it spot on and allowed the cricketing public to appreciate their work, but with the rating handed down by the ICC for the Perth deck, one has to wonder "what constitutes a good Test pitch"?
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