Tour of the West Indies
CA's new tool against foreign spin threat
Cricket Australia's new hybrid wicket mimics the unfriendly spinning conditions of the subcontinent
12 May 2015, 07:09 PM AEST
Cricket Australia’s quest to quell its troubles against the mysteries of spin bowling has led to the creation of a sub-continental-style, hybrid spin pitch at the Bupa National Cricket Centre in Brisbane.
Situated at Ray Lindwall Oval adjacent to Allan Border Field, the wicket aims to replicate the spin-friendly conditions seen on the Indian sub-continent and elsewhere that have troubled foreign batsman for decades.
It is expected to play an important role in Australia’s preparations for the Test series in Bangladesh that follows this year’s Ashes campaign in the UK.
The pitch is made of 60mm of synthetic turf glued to a concrete slab and topped with 50mm of black soil, the surface of which is then watered, coated in diluted PVA glue and rolled on silk cloth.
Tufts of red synthetic grass sprout through the cracking soil to produce the unpredictable variation that Asian wickets are known for, assisting the slow bowlers while causing consternation for batsmen.
The hybrid wicket at Ray Lindwall Oval in Brisbane // cricket.com.au
Australia’s vulnerabilities against high-quality spin bowling resurfaced last October when Pakistan swept aside Michael Clarke’s men 2-0 in the United Arab Emirates on slow low pitches that negated the visitor’s superior fast bowling attack.
In that series Australia’s premier spin bowler Nathan Lyon failed to master the dry UAE wickets, taking three wickets in two Tests at 140.66, while Pakistan’s spin twins Zulfiqar Babar and Yasir Shah claimed 14 and 12 wickets each respectively.
But Lyon says the hybrid strip at the NCC is “quite close” to replicating the spinning subcontinent surfaces where the right-armer has to recalibrate is bowling plan.
“It’s a new challenge,” Lyon told cricket.com.au.
“I’ve got to figure out a way to hit the stumps more often and to bring different ways of dismissals in.
“It’s been fantastic to train on. I know (fellow Ashes tourist) Pete Nevill and myself have been coming up for a couple of weeks for a couple of days (at a time) and we’ve been doing a fair bit of and it’s been great value for his keeping as well.”
Lyon says the wicket is "quite close" to the ones you'd find in India // cricket.com.au
While Lyon has been toiling away with ball in hand, fast bowler Ryan Harris has had the opportunity to bat on the puzzling pitch that resembles a bag of flattened jaffas.
“I wasn’t sure what to expect. Talking to a few of the guys, (they said) it was slow and poppy, but it was pretty good today,” Harris told cricket.com.au on how he found batting on the hybrid track.
“I think they may have glued it over the last week and sealed it and made it a bit harder and it’s really, really good.
“It’s good practice because some balls don’t bounce and some balls do and it’s good, it really makes you watch the ball – it’s pretty realistic.”
The idea stems from the mind of Dubai’s International Global Cricket Academy curator Tony Hemming which houses an encyclopedic knowledge of pitches from all over the world.
Queensland Cricket Grounds Manager Jarrod Bird has visited Hemming in the Emirates, tinkering with the ICC’s own hybrid blueprint to suit the climes of the sunshine state’s capital.
“We use a different clay to what they use over there – it swells and contacts and cracks a lot more than it what it does (in Dubai) so we’ve got to keep the water up to this one and keep bringing it up for them consistently,” Bird said.
“We’ve been using the PVA glue on it now and I’ve spoken to Jarod Carter who’s over at the Bay Oval in New Zealand.
“He was one of the pioneers in England when he was at Old Trafford for using the PVA glue, testing it for the ECB.”
As the wicket doesn’t rely on natural grass to be used, the pitch can be prepared in approximately three hours, and at a one-off cost of $11,000, the unique surface is a sustainable option for suburban cricket clubs.
The pitch up close and personal // cricket.com.au
Cricket Australia intends to keep experimenting with different soils in the aim to replicate the multicultural wicket block featured at the ICC Academy.
Scott Lardner, NCC Facility Manager, has recently visited the Darling Downs area west of Brisbane in search of different soils that further mimic subcontinent conditions in the hope to grow and curate an Indian-style wicket.
While further testing is still required, Bird says there is one plot that could potentially imitate the barren wickets found in Mumbai and its neighbouring cities.
“Four plots with four lots of soil that Scott Lardner at Cricket Australia went out and picked up out west,” Bird said.
“(He went) out to a couple of farmers and asked if he could dig a few holes in their backyard.
“There’s one over there (near the existing hybrid pitch) that looks pretty promising that is similar to Indian soil.
“A red-looking clay that gets a bit dusty and sandy on top so it should fall apart.”
The red clay plot in the foreground is said to be similar to Indian wickets // cricket.com.au