MCC confident wicket won’t affect Boxing Day Test
Melbourne Cricket Club officials are confident of producing a good Boxing Day pitch, dispelling attempts to poach the showpiece Test match.
The MCG’s controversial pitch was thrown into chaos on the weekend when the Sheffield Shield match between Victoria and Western Australia was abandoned because of fears over player safety due to the dangerous wicket.
Over the past few years, it has been a talking point for all the wrong reasons. Criticised as being boring, lifeless, and producing dull Test matches, despite attracting the largest Test crowd over the Australian summer.
In accepting blame for the abandoned Shield game, MCC CEO Stuart Fox spoke of the internal directive to improve the Melbourne Cricket Ground wicket.
“Over the last twelve months, our arenas team, supported by key stakeholders including Cricket Australia and Cricket Victoria, have made a concerted effort in making improvements to the standard of the MCG wickets, with a focus on allowing for pace, bounce and lateral movement” Fox said.
“Our intention is to produce wickets that have something in them for both bat and ball. Although undoubtedly unfortunate, this experience provides us with a clear benchmark with regard to how far we can push the wickets going forward, in order to achieve that balance.”
The situation has led to calls for the MCG to be stripped of the Boxing Day Test, even though the wicket which will be used on December 26 is different to the one in the spotlight on the weekend.
The chance of the game moving is essentially zero, however rival venues won’t give up hope of snatching the showpiece event in the future, with the MCG’s existing contract with Cricket Australia to host the Boxing Day ending this year.
Cricket Australia has been urged by broadcaster Fox Sports to have a venue outside of Melbourne on standby for Boxing Day in the unlikely event that a worst-case scenario did become apparent in the days leading up to the match.
The MCG was the first Australian Test venue to use drop-in wickets in 1996, while the Adelaide Oval installed them during its redevelopment and the new Optus Stadium has also adopted the technology. The Gabba and the SCG have retained their traditional centre wicket tables, despite pressure from the AFL.
Drop in wickets in general don’t appear to be the issue, with Test matches in Adelaide and Perth more often than not getting a result, while Boxing Day Tests in Melbourne have been dull affairs. The MCG pitch is five ICC demerit points away from copping a one-year international venue hosting ban – which could be a disaster with the men’s and women’s World Cup Final to be held at the ground in 2020.
The MCC have made a number of changes in recent years, with additional layers of sand being added around the wicket, while they dropped the number of pitches on the ground to single figures. The concrete slab which housed the wickets has been replaced for a sand base, which makes it similar to Adelaide and Perth.
“We know that improving the overall quality of the MCG pitches will take time, and remain confident that we are heading in the right direction on this journey” Fox concluded.