An unresponsive pitch neither intensifies fans’ emotions nor does it make for five days of rip-roaring cricket.
This is not to say that either England’s impenetrable Test batsman Alistair Cook or Pakistan’s unwavering all-rounder Shoaib Malik’s contributions in the first Pakistan-England Test should be undermined. In intense heat, both spent prolonged hours at a crease best described as unvaried.
Two seasons ago, Pakistan Test captain Misbah complained in Sharjah, about the fact that the pitch had not been produced according to his requirements. Rewind to the South Africa series in 2010 and a disconsolate Jacques Kallis complained to the Abu Dhabi press that groundsmen were producing lacklustre pitches.
Zayed Stadium’s groundsman Mohan Singh was not available at time of going to press, thus ARY News spoke to former Pakistani batsman and current commentator Rameez Raja, who put it aptly, ‘ There should be more of a balance between bat and ball as draws are not a good advertisement for Test cricket.’
This in turn, brings us to recent talk of the Abu Dhabi stadium being relatively void of fans during the first two days of thematch.
The fact that almost all expats come to this part of the world to work, has a large impact on the attendance figures during Tests. However, most ODIS and all T20s are usually sold out. Does this bring forth the argument that Tests in the UAE should be day/night matches?
Senior Pakistani journalist Qamar Ahmed feels this will not make much of a difference, because working expats will be too tired to attend evening matches on work days.
However, the PCB does need to improve its marketing strategies. Whilst local radio stations are the preferred form of communication, targeting schools would be a good idea. Who does not enjoy the amplified sounds of excited schoolchildren screaming themselves hoarse in support of their cricketing heroes?
UAE groundsmen too, need to produce a pitch that will define a child’s memory of his/her visit to a stadium as something wondrous and instill an interest in Test cricket that will linger through the ages.