The history of Cricket tells us that the pitches have always favored the home-side as pitches, rather the overall playing conditions play a huge-part in defining the way Test Cricket is played in that particular country. Here we take a look at how each country offers different challenges to their visitors which makes the 5-day-affair, the ultimate ‘Test’.
INDIA’S PARADISES AND MINEFIELDS
The traditional Indian pitches have always been turners with the cracks appearing on the third day and causing mayhem for anyone batting last. What differentiates pitches here from the other sub-continent ones is the use of the SG ball which is hard and has a pronounced seam providing quick turn after pitching and also aids reverse-swing. Plus, the batsmen have runs on offer as the ball comes on to the bat well.
SWING ALL THE WAY IN ENGLAND
The ‘home’ of Cricket is known for its swinging conditions which offer sideways movement for a swing bowler, who becomes the most potent weapon in a captain’s armory. The batsman has to counter strategy of playing the Duke ball which because of being soft, swings more, both in the air and off the pitch. The slightly overcast conditions makes life difficult for a batsman who has to graft himself initially but once the pitch hardens up, a set batsman can go on to make a huge score.
PACY AND BOUNCY SOUTH AFRICA
Green tops. This is South African cricketing conditions in essence. The conditions here offer pace, bounce and swing to the fast bowlers making batting a nightmare and it is no surprise that this country has produced the likes of Dale Steyn and Allan Donald. The batsmen are, literally, on the back-foot here but the lush-green outfields ensure that once the ball crosses the 30-yard circle, it goes to the fence.
HOP, SKIP AND JUMP DOWN UNDER
The conditions Down-under are like the Aussie team, aggressive and competitive, which mostly bring out the best cricket. The pitches offer runs and wickets, both in equal proportions. Traditionally Australians have produced sporting wickets but recent history tells us that the pitches have become easier for the batsman as the Kookaburra hasn’t been swinging that much off the pitch as it used to. The extra bounce which a bowler gets here surprises the batsman as he has to find ways to take it on.
IT GRIPS IN SRI LANKA
The Sri Lankans are one of the toughest opponents at home. There bowling once revolved around Murali and Vaas, both of whom excelled in these conditions. Colombo and Galle, which were once treated as flat-decks are now evolving as good result wickets which provide ample turn and early swing. Often though, rain plays spoilsport here making the pitch damp and in turn helping the bowlers.
MIXED BAG IN KIWI-LAND
The conditions in New Zealand are somewhat similar to that of England with the pitch having a greenish tinge and ball beating the bat often. But the small grounds ensure that batsmen have runs for taking and a poor ball will be dispatched to the boundary. Tall scores are the order in all forms of cricket if there is no help to fast bowlers.
‘PAK’ED WITH FLAT DECKS AND REVERSE SWING
Pakistan hasn’t played a home test for a while but historically their pitches aided their faster bowlers Wasim and Waqar who troubled their opponents with the fast reverse-swinging yorkers which they could deliver at will. The Pakistanis then created spinner-friendly pitches and sometimes were known to produce flat-tracks where batsmen made merry and the tests ended in dull draws.
NOT SO FIERY CARIBBEAN
The West Indian pitches, much like their team, have lost their touch. Once upon a time, the Caribbean conditions were considered one of the toughest in the world but as the West Indies team lost their way in International cricket, so has the viciousness in their pitches. Their decks are now much more like the sub-continent ones, offering low bounce and plenty of runs. A bowler has to work hard for his wickets as he can’t expect much help from the pitch or conditions.
TURN AND RUNS IN THE EMIRATES
The UAE has been serving as the home ground for Pakistan in the recent past. The pitches here offer plenty of turn and loads of runs making it an ideal sub-continent wicket. Pakistan has a terrific record here and has had lot of success here, courtesy Saeed Ajmal, Younis Khan, Misbah-ul-haq and more recently, Yasir Shah. All of them have played a huge part in Pakistan’s triumphs in the desert nation.
SLOW AND LOW BANGLA
Bangladesh has been allotted Test status for a while but sadly their progress in this format hasn’t been as substantial as compared to the limited-overs one. The pitches here offer very little to the fast bowlers and are like other sub-continent ones with low bounce and runs for the taking with lot of wear-and-tear as the game goes on.