Who is to blame? (why the groundsman?)
Well another Ashes series bites the dust.
Personally, I think it was the worst Ashes series for skill and quality I have witnessed since my first series in 1977.
There were some great individual performances for sure. Broady's spell at Trent Bridge will be talked about for decades and decades of that there is no doubt.
A few other great bowling spells and a few very good innings but overall the quality was poor.
Who shall we blame though for the poor quality of the series? The head coaches? The selectors? The bowling coaches? Surely it is the batting coaches?
Of course it's none of the above because as everyone knows it's all down to that bloke who makes his living by sitting on a roller and cutting a bit of grass.
It's down to him that the potential 30 days of high quality cricket was reduced to only 18 days.
As Michael Clarke said, what you want is a wicket (incorrect Michael, because it's actually a pitch) that produces an even contest between bat and ball and ends up producing a result on the 5th day.
As another Aussie journalist said "Australia is the only country that produces fair pitches for all sides". Not sure many sub-continent batsmen think that when they play at the WACA.
The day before the Oval Test apparently one Aussie journo said the pitch was so green that the match yet again would be over in 2 days. So Cookie won the toss, inserted the convicts and they got their heads down and batted like it was a TEST MATCH.
Now most of you know I am one of the afore-mentioned grass cutters. I've been sat on a roller on and off for 38 years. Wouldn't mind a £ for every blade of grass I've cut either!
Everything you ever seem to read or hear about now all starts off and revolves around that 22 yard long piece of dirt.
Start of the game, what's the pitch going to do? Looks green, feels cold, soil looks dark etc
Lose a wicket, that ball seamed a lot, it kept low, it bounced a lot, it swung (the amount of times groundsman get asked if the pitch will swing is amazing. A pitch can't swing lads, but a ball can!).
End of the game, yeah pitch was slow, didn't bounce much, lots of sideways movement.
Cricket all around the world at professional level is played on soil with a high percentage of clay in it to hold it together. Grass is grown in this soil. Grass has roots which combined with some moisture and the clay, and looked after correctly, will produce cricket PITCHES.
So different countries have different soil, grass, and climates. Even in countries where you use the same soil and grass you get different climates.
Hence with all of the above that is why every pitch WILL be different.
It just seems nowadays (and I realise I'm paranoid as I've been slated for having slow/low pitches) that the most important part of cricket is the pitch.
Is it because the players can blame someone else when they play bad shots?
Is it because the so called experts, sorry I mean ex-players who have never produced a pitch in their lives, have something else to moan about?
Is it because groundsmen are soft targets because they never have a right of reply to criticism?
I'm sure players now are under so much scrutiny and pressure from TV that if they can blame someone/thing else apart from their lack of technique/strength/nous they will do.
Ex-players (not all) talk so much b******s about pitches that unfortunately JOE PUBLIC take it all in. The amount of times club players come up and say such and such a pitch is slow is unbelievable. I had it one day at Wormsley when a club side played: "Pitch is a bit slow" said the ageing, round arm actioned bloke bowling at 60 mph. Well it wasn't last week when Allan Donald was bowling on it at 90mph with Dave Richardson standing 25 yards back taking it above his head.
County and Test groundsmen have it tough; trying to keep their bosses happy and their team happy.
So much pressure is on them to produce "result" pitches in the County Championship. After all who wants to play in the 2nd division?
But if the result pitch is a bit too spicey and the game's over quickly up come the pitch inspectors and tut tut, shake the heads, "that's not good enough we will dock you points and give you a fine".
Alternatively you need to win to get promoted or stay up. Does the coach or chief exec come out and say to the press "leave the groundsman alone, we told him to produce a green seamer/Bunsen burner"???
As Michael Clarke says you just want a pitch that suits everyone but goes too late on the 5th day but definitely with a home win. That's what chief execs want. 5 days of a full house, luvly jubbly.
Ah but because of the weather being cold and wet or because they've got quicker bowlers than us we ask for/get a slow lifeless pitch (does that sound familiar) and the game peters out into a tame draw, who gets slagged off? That's it, that bloke who cuts grass.
Win a game in 2 days or watch 5 days of boring cricket. I know what I would choose.
A Test groundsman of mine just this week said "we have just had a low scoring game, but great tough cricket where every run mattered and was really intense, but the umpires marked it poor. Whereas when you have a high scoring game with a result depending on a declaration the pitch is marked good."
Now I don't do twatter or whatever it's called. But Andy at work does. During the women's Test at Canterbury last week he was on twatter when someone said "at least this Test is being played on a proper county square which will be quicker than the last 2 Tests at Wormsley"
The perception being a county ground will always be better/quicker/bouncier than a non-county ground such as ours.
Andy shot back saying when we played the Aussies we were ASKED to produce a slow pitch because the Aussies had quicker bowlers than us. So we did as we were told, got slagged off by all including some of the England players for producing what they wanted!
So the Test match this year at Canterbury was even more boring. England patted back 410 out of 530 balls bowled. Slow pitch again or just a pi$$ poor mentality? Whatever it was it must have been the slow pitch.
Suggestions to make womens Tests more exciting include making the pitch shorter. One ex Aussie woman player who was commentating said you don't make the pitch shorter for any other women's sport so why cricket.
BUT they do use a lighter ball, they do have smaller boundaries and even the inner fielding circles are closer so why not try it.
Heather Knight did an article and said making the pitch shorter would increase the chance of getting lots of beamers. REALLY???!!!!!! So when players advance down the pitch a yard or 2 they just get beamers do they? Sorry I'm digressing onto women's cricket (which I will do at another time).
But hopefully you see from a poor groundsman's point of view that it's not as easy as a lot of people think to get a perfect pitch that helps all and pleases everyone.
Take our beautiful weather. What a great August we are having. Who would think that it was easier to produce a pitch this year in cold April than virtually at any time in August when it sometimes only takes 5 days?
Getting pitches and nets ready for early April normally means starting putting the covers on in mid Feb. We have a great picture of James sat on a roller in March at 1 degree with snow all around 2 feet high after we had pushed snow off the covers so he could roll. Poor bugger!
So try producing "Good" pitches at all times of the year with our climate. Not as easy as our ex cricketers would have you believe.
Best wishes, the grumpy groundsman.