Perth Pitch : The transition from a fast bowler's paradise to a 'carpet of humanity'
Had former Australian captain and legendary commentator Richie Benaud been alive today, looking at the modern day W.A.C.A (Western Australian Cricket Association) wicket he would have had no hesitation in telling “From our broadcasting box you can’t see any grass at all. It is simply a carpet of humanity.”
Yes, that’s what the Perth wicket, once known as one of the fastest wickets in the world, has turned into.
Flat pitches and high scores
Take a look at the runs scored in recent matches at Perth and you would relate to my hypothesis. In the test match played between Australia and New Zealand in 2015 at the home of Western Australia Cricket, more than 550 runs were scored in the first innings of both the teams. It was no surprise that the match ended in a tame draw.
There was a time when bowling at the Perth wicket was a fast bowler’s dream, and every visiting team down-under looked forward to the Perth test. So, while the list of best bowling performances in test matches is full of fast bowlers; there has been no new entry to the top-10 list (Glen McGrath’s 8-24 against Pakistan in 2004 is the best all-time bowling figure in an innings here) in the last seven years.
Now, anyone remotely following cricket will tell you that One Day cricket is largely a batsman’s game. Over the years, rules have been bended in favour of the batsmen and only pitches like the one at Perth were saving grace for the bowlers.
But a quick look at the top-10 team scores at the WACA (Australia’s 417/6 against Afghanistan in the 2015 World Cup is the highest ever team score) in ODIs tell us that eight of them have been scored in the past decade.
People can say that this would be true for any ground in the world, as scores in excess of 300 have become a norm these days in ODIs. However, in my opinion, it is more so necessary in today’s time that we have pitches favouring the bowlers like the erstwhile pitch at Perth to maintain a balance between the bat and ball.
Batsmen used to relish the challenge at the W.A.C.A
Apart from maintaining the balance, in a world full of pitches favouring the batsman, the other beauty of the pitch at W.A.C.A was that great batsmen relished the challenge of batting there. Batting legend Sachin Tendulkar has gone on record to say that he rates his 114 at Perth in 1992 as one of his best test innings ever.
This coming from a man who has scored more than 50 test centuries across the world, just emphasises the importance that batsmen used to give to a century at the bouncy W.A.C.A.
I am not sure if 20 years down the line, the likes of Ross Taylor (who scored 290 in the 2nd test in 2015) or Kane Williamson (who scored 166 in the same test) will rate their innings as the best ever. No doubt, they played well but even their staunchest supporter will agree that the wicket was not the one which posed a challenge to the batsmen.
Ricky Ponting who has the highest runs aggregate at Perth has scored them at an average of 38.60 which is much less than his overall average of 51.85. Similarly, Allan Border (the second highest run scorer at Perth) has an average of 40.47 at Perth compared to his overall test average of 50.56. Now compare this with current Australian opener David Warner who averages 95 plus at Perth.
I am not in any way trying to undermine Warner here, but the fact that he has played his test matches on the ‘not so fast and bouncy’ modern W.A.C.A tracks, may have had some influence on his Bradman-esque average here.
The future though seems promising. A new stadium across the Swan River to Burswood is being built which will be known as the Perth stadium. All the major international matches will move to this new stadium.It will have all the modern amenities and also a larger seating capacity as compared to what is available at the W.A.C.A.
But the thing that would interest the cricket romantic is that the pitch at the new Perth stadium promises to be a fast bowlers paradise much like the W.A.C.A of the last century. We will have to wait till 2018 to see what the Perth stadium pitch actually offers but as they say, there’s some light at the end of the tunnel.