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[OPINION] ICC needs to step in on pitch preparations

The playing surfaces in international cricket have taken centre stage more than the cricket action itself in recent times, and it has seen several cricket grounds around the world being slapped with ‘demerit points’ for preparing ‘poor’ and ‘below average’ pitches.

The power of home countries over the preparation of a playing surface has been increasing and has diluted the quality of the cricket being played out in the middle, robbing fans and spectators of entertainment and their monies worth.

Perhaps the pitch mayhem was sparked by the Nagpur pitch which fielded the third Test match between India and South Africa in November 2015 that ended in a 124-run defeat for the Proteas, astonishingly inside three days. 40 wickets fell in those three days, and 33 of them belonged to spinners, in an uneven contest between bat and ball. That surface was subsequently rated as ‘poor’ by the ICC.

In 2017, another Indian pitch was under the microscope when the Pune pitch that hosted the first Test between India and Australia also ended in three days, with the hosts this time on the receiving end of a 333-run drubbing. That pitch too was rated ‘poor’ by the ICC.

This year alone three pitches have been sanctioned by the cricket governing body. The MCG pitch during the recently concluded Ashes series between Australia and England also got a negative rating, and we're also aware of the recent Wanderers debacle where batsmen were ducking for their lives.

The first Test between Bangladesh and Sri Lanka in Chittagong has also been slapped with one demerit point.

So should the ICC step in and set standard measures for home sides to adhere to when they prepare pitches in future series?

I say yes. In order to preserve the image of Test cricket and ensure the safety of all the players, the ICC has to make a concerted effort to ensure that pitch preparations are conducive for quality Test cricket all over the world.

Philasande Sixaba is a sports reporter at Eyewitness News.

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