by Trevor Chesterfield
How ironic. Pakistan Cricket Board’s hierarchy have become concerned about the state of the pitch for the second Test in Lahore.
Little wonder. Last Wednesday, hours after the travesty known as the Karachi Test ended in a heap of meaningless records, the PCB quickly realised they too could be blamed for bringing the game into disrepute. And frankly, so they should.
They realised after the International Cricket Council quite rightly held as responsible the West Indies Cricket Board for the Sand Dunes of Antigua fiasco and the abandoned Test after ten balls that Karachi had also failed ICC’s desire for quality and equal Test performances.
This is not going to be a popular view for some. But as explained before, these views are not meant to be popular, especially if it treads on a few toes.
But facts are facts and have to be faced, whether in the Caribbean, known for its shaky board decisions and reluctance to accept responsibility, Lahore, Mumbai or Johannesburg. The West Indies board, as the host body running Tests in the Caribbean, were held responsible for what took place at the Sir Viv Richards Stadium between England and the West Indies.
It is not a way to run a Test tour, and as Anuruddha Pollonnowita who oversees pitch preparation in Sri Lanka is quick to point out, getting the correct balance to ensure a good Test pitch is not a matter of trial and error but knowing the conditions. Because of this, he has a good record and Sri Lanka Cricket has a man who understands the requirements of what is needed to produce quality Test surfaces.
He is not responsible for dropped catches, poor bowling performances or batting technique, or for that matter rain. As he has shown, Pollonnowita’s pitch preparation efforts is an example for other South Asian boards to follow.
But to create a pitch designed to sabotage the ICC wishes, as there was at Karachi, left anyone who watched with a mind numbing exercise in futility. Apart from the world fourth wicket record partnership of 437 between Mahela Jayawardene and Thilan Samaraweera, the remaining records became like ghost ships passing in the night.
Is this what the PCB and their misguided groundsman had in mind? Setting meaningless records for the sake of filling pages with figures that make you yawn. I will get back to this particular subject, but first some genuine facts.
What has the PCB hopping and scurrying about the Lahore pitch, is that last Wednesday, the ICC’s chief executive committee, meeting in Johannesburg, pointed out that the host board, in this case, the West Indies, and in the matter of Karachi, Pakistan, are responsible as host bodies for pitch preparation.
Also that there was so much written about Younis Khan possibly beating Brian Lara’s record that it became wearisome. Rather have him break the record first then write about the effort; do not second-guess what is going to take place. Trying to anticipate a moment in history gives the reader a false impression.
In any case, Lara’s efforts at the Antigua Recreation Ground were also innings in dead matches and make you wonder what he was trying to achieve in setting them. When Sir Garry Sobers at Sabina Park, Jamaica in March 1958, beat Sir Len Hutton’s record of 364, the West Indies went on to beat Pakistan. Just as Hutton’s innings helped England beat Australia in what was the last Ashes Test of the pre-World War two era.
First, though, back to the ICC’s chief executive committee’s meeting and the wording of their communiqué over the West Indies farce. Future guidelines now suggest, if we examine the CEC suggestions, how the Karachi debacle could in future leave the Pakistani authority with a venue that is unfit to hold Tests if this is how they plan to prepare such future venues. And to quote from the ICC’s media release, there are going to be guidelines which the hosts have to adhere when it comes to match preparation procedures.
How close did those in Karachi look at such requirements? It would be interesting to know. It is here where the PCB decided to shoot the messenger. Now they are worried of being cited over Karachi. Serve them right.
They are talking about a lack of communication for the Karachi disaster. Here there are more shame-faced excuses saying nothing.
Maybe because when the last Test was played in Karachi, South Africa beat Pakistan by 160 runs in the first week of October 2007. It has haunted their curator and those responsible for the sport in Pakistan since that particular defeat. They didn’t like it, and killed the second game in Lahore (Inzamam-ul-Haq’s last Test) as a contest by a similar surface to this one in Karachi.
A check on the scorecard of that October 2007 match shows how South Africa scored 450 and 264 for seven, declared, dismissing Pakistan for 291 and 263, despite a battling Younis Khan second innings century.
Paul Harris collected five wickets for seventy-three in the first innings while Dale Steyn turned on the heat in their second innings and collected five for fifty-six, destroying their top order with pace and swing with Makhaya Ntini and Andre Nel in support.
Is this though, reason for the farcical Karachi pitch? It is a conundrum. The Pakistan parliamentary body in charge of sport held an inquest into the heavy defeat in the Lahore ODI against Sri Lanka. Fingers were pointed but hardly the reason for the horrendous Karachi pitch, unless word was given to the contrary.
In Pakistan, they have a different story for what is said, what has been implied and what actually took place. It is called shifting the blame and they are not shame-faced about it either.
Whatever happens in Lahore, it is going to be a very long time before Pakistan host another Test series. Maybe it will teach them a lesson.
Note: Prior permission has sought from the author before republication of the above article.