Cricket has always been an integral part of Australia’s culture.
The wicket at the MCG? The Accepted Group Think after two days of toil appears to be that it’s a steaming pile of hard-baked horse hair.
And while that may even be true – I don’t reckon, and I’ll elucidate why soon – surely you just get that, occasionally.
How else can you know “good” wicket from “bad”? Would it be good to have a WACA wicket each week? Or would it be too same-same?
Why is one pitch “good” or “bad” anyway? It’s the same strip of compacted grass and soil for both XIs – and the rub of the green favours one team over another, on occasion, from the first time the skipper calls heads or tails, hills or flats.
On the occasion of this Boxing Day Test it’s India who has, so far, best exploited the conditions, and had the Patience of Pujara to hang about, and bat the dots off it, and keep the Aussie bowlers charging in, time and again, in the very hot sun, to face a flat bat and the maker’s mark.
For two days.
And now the Aussies are having a bat, and after spending two days in the sun appear to have found demons in the wicket that weren’t previously there.
It’s up, it’s down – and India’s bowling hot areas.
You’d think a skidding slow-med man, a Nathan Bracken, a Brad Macnamara, a Chris Harris bowling his patented dibble-filth, could shoot down little skidding cutters and so make hay upon such a surface.
But India’s doing okay without a man thus. They’ve got three rod-hot quickies at the peak of their powers, and a crafty cat called Jadeja who’s extracted various action.
And the Aussies did not. Plus they dropped three catches. Peter Siddle could’ve swallowed his. Travis Head’s eyes got big on him at short leg. And Pat Cummins grassed one at long off after bowling 34 overs, the only one with an excuse if you’re excusing professionals who train in these very disciplines most every single day of their lives.
Anyway – how this Test match has played out so far does that make the wicket “bad”. It’s just a wicket – it is what it is. And it is the same for both teams. And India’s owned this puppy so far.
The ICC have a yardstick for “good” and “bad” wickets, some algorithm or something that measures bounce and seam and sundry factors. And the ICC declared that the Perth strip – which produced a belter of a Test match – wasn’t good.
What they’ll make of this MCG wicket – which at time of writing has see drawn 10 wickets – 7 Indian, 3 Australian – in 200 overs, remains to be seen.
Probably say it’s grouse. Who knows? These people are kooks motivated by greed.
Ha. Maybe not greed.
But money? For sure.
Money is television requiring content to sell advertisements upon their media. Money is governing bodies selling rights to media and enticing brands to give money to their brand, which keeps the whole shebang going. It’s stupid money.
So governing bodies and television and advertisers want content for as long as possible. So the MCC’s greenskeeper is under pressure to produce a strip that’ll eke out a result, preferably in the last session of Day 5.
You think if James Sutherland and Pat Howard told the players they weren’t paid to play they were paid to win, there wouldn’t be head honchos telling the MCC who would tell their greensman, mate, get us to Day 5. We need full service, top ratings – maximum revenue. The best kind of revenue.
The organisation as a venue for Test cricket lives and dies on the wicket lasting long enough. And this MCG one looks like the Nullarbor Plain.
And here we are.
And so the best case for the Test series as narrative is for the Aussies to somehow hang around like so many limpets, and somehow force a draw. They have 17 wickets in hand, at time of writing just before Lunch on Day 3, and so ten sessions.
And if they can do that, and we all just sort of accept this Test match is going to be more boring than Boycott reading the Bible, then we’d go into the deciding Test in Sydney 1-all, and that would be grouse.
Perhaps very grouse.
It’s tough to conjure though, even in the fevered dreams of post-Xmas, because the Aussies, well, um… they can’t bat, that well, even on a deck declared deader than a twice-cooked tenderloin strip of Kentucky Fried Chicken.
Now, look – I dunno anything, really, about greens-keeping outside that it makes grass which is good to putt on, bad to smoke, and the smell of it cut is evocative of childhood because one’s brain is wired close to the olfactory nerves to warn us of danger, it’s a thing.
So woe betide he who’ll criticise an expert in their field while having little to no knowledge of said expert’s field of expertise.
But we know what we like.
And in terms of a cricket pitch it’s not this one.
And you wonder why? Why can’t they cook up a better bit of kit? Old mate the Greenskeeper’s had 12 months to make the damned thing in the oven out the back of Punt Road. There’s been Sheffield Shield games to act as petri dish for Strip 1, Strip 2, and so on.
Shane Warne – dear sweet Warney, bless him – wondered why they couldn’t ship the WACA strip across the Nullarbor, and I do too wonder why they couldn’t do that.
Armoured road trains – ship it in, dead of night.
Something to do with state politics, one would suggest. This Test is the MCC’s baby. And so they have to own the wicket.
Meanwhile India is owning this Test match.
And they’d say the wicket’s a beaut.