Pitched battle in the wild west


A bitter verbal stoush has broken out between Cricket Australia and the Test selectors on one side and the local groundsmen on the other over the state of the pitch for the match between India and Australia starting at the new Perth Stadium today.

With only hours to go before the coin toss for the historic clash, each side is blaming the other for a surface that some experts are claiming could cause serious injury – or worse – to batsmen.

Head groundsman and pitch curator at Perth Stadium, Garry Grassless, has hinted that he and his staff were pressured by CA and the Test selectors to create the pitch that now awaits batsmen from which ever team faces up first.

“Look, we’ll happily accept that we selected the drop-in pitch and that it came from a single 32 metre by 25 metre block of concrete lifted from the runway of a disused mining company strip being dismantled up in the Pilbara region,” said Grassless of the square, pictured above while still in the Pilbara and being re-tarred and given a final rolling before being airlifted to Perth.

“But do you think we made that decision on our own? Every bloody day for weeks now some bastard from CA or one of the selectors have been on the blower saying stuff like ‘India’s got the better batting line-up; Australia’s got the better fast bowlers’ over and over again. Non stop.

“So we do what they want and now they’re screaming blue murder because the pitch looks like a real belter and they’ve finally twigged that India’s pace attack may not be too bad after all.

“Hello! Hello! Ding! Ding! Ding! It never occurred to them that India didn’t become the No.1 Test team in the world because they had a side that could bat for five days straight?

“Anyway, we’ve given them the “green top” they so desperately hinted at and wanted. They’ll probably now take issue with the shade of the green paint we’ve used on the square overnight,” Grassless added.

Spokesmen for the CA and the national selectors strenuously denied putting any pressure on the Perth groundsmen to prepare a wicket that suited the home side. “We might have mentioned once that the WACA always had lively wickets and we wondered if the new stadium would continue that tradition,” one said. “And that’s about all we would have said. If we even said that.”

Respected veteran Test opener Bill Lawry said he feared for the safety of anyone forced to face up today: “From what I can see of the pitch on my little 14in AWA black and white tele up near my pigeon loft, someone could easily be killed there today.

“Whoever curated that pitch should be put in jail if that happens,” said Mr Lawry, who faced some of the world’s fastest men on green tops, including Fred Truman and Brian Statham at the peak of their powers. To this day, Lawry remains the only Test batsmen to have been dismissed by Truman twice nose before wicket.

STOP PRESS: The India-Australia Test match has been abandoned in Perth after Australia’s Tim Paine won the toss and batted but Ishant Shama was unable to complete his first over. The umpires pulled stumps when Shama’s first five attempts at legal deliveries each went for six wides, leaving Australia 30 without loss before the match was abandoned.

Veteran ABC commentator Glenn Maxwell said: “I knew we were in trouble right from the coin toss when it hit the pitch and had to be retrieved two-thirds of the way down to the fine-leg boundary.”