The MCC is pulling the wrong rein with new rules limiting the thickness of cricket bats. If they really want to tilt the contest between bat and ball in the bowlers’ favour, all they need do is allow Indian curators to prepare pitches all over the world.
Firstly in Pune and now Bangalore we have seen pitches that have all but taken the batsmen out of the contest. It has been a complete battle for survival, with quality attacking shots few and far between. There has been only one century scored in eight innings and Steve Smith had at least four chances during that gutsy dig. In the First Test the Indian team was lucky to make a century between them in both innings. Finally the bowlers are back at the forefront of Test cricket and the thickness of the bats has been shown to be irrelevant.
Traditionally Test match pitches give the fast bowlers a bit of assistance on the first morning before flattening out for the batsmen through to Day 3 or 4 when they disintegrate enough to once again give the bowlers, particularly the spinners, an edge. Indian curators, hoping to assist the home team’s spin bowling arsenal have been known to prepare Day 3 pitches for the start of a Test. On this tour they have mastered the art, and you need no further proof than to have witnessed unheralded tweaker Stephen O’Keefe grab match figures of 12/70 in Pune.
Thanks to an over-abundance of Twenty20 cricket people are just about sick to death of seeing batsmen dominate. No one has the time or money to watch a game that lasts five days, often with batsmen batting till the end for a draw. Test match crowds are dwindling all over the world, because the game has tilted too far in the batsman’s favour.
It’s time for India to share their curation art with the rest of the cricket world, starting with this year’s Ashes in Australia. The First Test of this historic series needs to be played on a Gabba dust bowl. Imagine England winning the toss and deciding to have a bat, only to face up to the opening combination of Nathan Lyon and Stephen O’Keefe, turning the ball sideways. The crowds would pour in.
Of course, it won’t be long before the MCC feel the need to tilt the balance back towards the batsmen. With the ball inclined to roll along these Indian prepared pitches from Day 1, the MCC will need to tinker with the maximum bat length rule.