Mon, 06 Feb 2023

Rawalpindi [Pakistan], December 3 (ANI): Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chief Ramiz Raja has slammed the pitch used during the first Test against England, saying that it is not a "good advert for cricket" and the nation still lives in "the dark ages of pitch preparation".

The Rawalpindi pitch saw England racking up a world record 506 runs on the opening day of the Test. Ramiz slammed the surface as "embarrassing" and said that it would take another season for the quality of pitches to improve.

"It is embarrassing for us, especially when you have a cricketer as chairman," Ramiz said as quoted by ESPNCricinfo during the lunch break on the second day of the Test.

"This is not a good advert for cricket. We are a better cricketing nation than this," he added.

The pitch quality has become a point of scrutiny, especially since Ramiz took over as PCB chief last year. He promised to bring drop-in pitches to Pakistan. But the progress on this matter has been non-existent despite all the talks around it, with Ramiz decrying the costs of shipping them from foreign countries as prohibitive.

"Ultimately, the only situation is a drop-in pitch. Which is extremely expensive if we are bringing it from abroad. Instead, we are developing soil here for drop-in pitches. That way, we can prepare square turners or bouncy wickets depending on what we want," he added.

"This is not an issue of not leaving grass on the pitch. The grass looks good from the point of view of optics. We need to create bounce, which can happen without grass, as happens on Australian pitches. They do not leave lots of grass on the pitch. We get different pitches in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth.""We have the same pitches because we get the same kind of soil. We have tried to bring a curator from abroad; we needed to bring a curator from Australia for the Lahore Test, because the situation had gotten out of hand. When I want a spinning pitch, we do not get that either, so it ends up being half and half. We do not want that."There was very little controversy in the country about the pitch quality until Australia's visit to Rawalpindi earlier this year. In a match, the pitch could produce only 14 wickets in five days and was awarded a poor rating and docked a demerit point by ICC.

Pindi was recently regarded as the spiciest Test pitch in the nation, offering the most assistance to bowlers. During South Africa's visit to the country in 2021, the Rawalpindi Test produced scores of 200-300 in all innings and the match turned out to be a thriller. 18 of SA's wickets back then fell to the pacers of Pakistan. Even the surface of Karachi was able to produce a great match, which Pakistan won by seven wickets.

Ramiz insisted that he did not interfere in pitch-making for individual Test matches.

"The board doesn't direct how pitches are made. I have left this to the think tank. We look at our strengths and then the pitch and then make selections. I try and limit my involvement because otherwise, I cannot hold people accountable. For accountability, you have to cede control. I aim to create a pitch that ends up defining our tactics so a template is set," said Raja.

"We live in the dark ages of pitches in Pakistan. They are not exposed in T20 and 50 overs but they are in Test cricket. We lived in an apartheid situation where teams did not come here. Pakistan players had played 70 Tests without playing here. It is an achievement that we managed to stay afloat. We have tried everything, bringing in a curator from abroad. Pitches are the lifeblood of cricket in a country, but having said that, I have never seen batting like England's on Day 1 either," said Raja.

Coming to the match, Pakistan ended day 2 at 181/0, with Imam-ul-Haq (90) and Abdullah Shafique (89). In the first innings, England scored a massive 657 before being bundled out. Zak Crawley (122), Ben Duckett (107), Ollie Pope (108), and Harry Brook (153) scored tons.

Zahid Mahmood (4/235), and Naseem Shah (3/140) were the pick of the bowlers for the hosts. (ANI)

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