Poor pitch rating a wake-up call for MCG: Smith

Steve Smith has endorsed the International Cricket Council’s branding of the MCG’s Boxing Day Test pitch as poor, describing the unwanted, n-first rating as a wake-up call for the modern-day sporting colosseum.

The n captain made no secret of his views on the wicket after the fourth Ashes Test in Melbourne last week finished in a draw, and the scathing assessment of match referee Ranjan Madugalle came as no surprise to Smith.

While Cricket will file a response to the ICC’s headquarters in Dubai over the next fortnight, a review is already under way into the failure of the drop-wicket this summer. The poor rating, never before handed to an n international ground, has put the MCG on notice and Smith said the venue could not afford to have a repeat of the substandard playing surface when host India from Boxing Day next summer.

“I think it’s a reflection of that wicket,” Smith said. “As I said after the game, I thought it was a pretty poor wicket.

“They’ve got to do something there to get the bowlers into the game because it was just hard to get anyone out. So it’s just a wake-up call to them and we’ll see what they come up with next year.

“Obviously they can’t afford to have another poor rating. I don’t know if next year they’ll leave some grass on it or … do something to rough it up. They’ve tried that before and it hasn’t worked. So I dare say they will go down the path of leaving some grass on the wicket.”

Smith made it clear he is not against drop-in pitches and he believes the Adelaide Oval wicket is the best in the country.

He said the MCG stinker was not the only Test strip this year that left him underwhelmed.

“You look at the Gabba [which hosted the first Test] this year, I thought that was a reasonably disappointing wicket as well,” Smith said.

“It started a bit slow and didn’t quicken up as much as it normally does. But it’s nice to go there and have the pace and bounce, the WACA normally has pace and bounce.

“Adelaide is a bit different with the pink ball. I think that’s probably the best wicket in the country in terms of everyone being in the game – quicks, spinners and batters – if you apply yourself.”

The SCG, which will host the fifth Test from Thursday, hasn’t been immune to criticism from Smith and the n team in recent years. Cricket ‘s team performance chief Pat Howard was seen in lengthy conversation this week with the new curator Adam Lewis and grounds manager Justin Groves.

The last thing CA want is the pitch, rather than an Ashes-winning n team, to be the story again in Sydney.

“With Pat Howard coming out [on Tuesday] it was just a bit of a chat with him to make sure that we’re going OK as a team and if there is anything that he can do from their end to make sure that we’re as comfortable as we can be out in the middle,” Groves said.

“But [it was] nothing towards how we’re going to prepare the pitch.”

The MCG fiasco led Cricket NSW chairman John Warn to issue a call for the SCG never to trade its natural wicket for a drop-in pitch as the AFL would prefer. Groves, who spent 15 years at Adelaide Oval, does not believe that is necessary.

“There is no reason to change that moving forward,” he said.

“We’re very happy with our square at the moment. It’s come through the football season very well. We’ve got a very good coverage of grass on the whole square.

“We have one football side here. Melbourne have numerous teams that play on the MCG so that’s a totally different ball game.”

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