Australia vs India 2018-19: What is a "drop-in" pitch, and what makes it different from regular pitches?
Virat Kohli’s men just won a thriller at Adelaide against Tim Paine’s Australia in the first Test of the Border-Gavaskar trophy 2018-19. The game was closely contested, and over the course of five days, only 31 runs could separate the two sides.
The Adelaide Oval sported a "drop-in” pitch this time, which is becoming a trend of late in the cricketing world. The new Optus stadium at Perth, scheduled to host the second Test, will also sport a drop-in pitch, and it will be interesting to see how things unfold as it gears up to host its first ever Test match.
So what exactly is a "drop-in” pitch? And how different does it behave in comparison to the traditional pitches?
A drop-in pitch is one that is created away from the ground or venue in question, and, as the name goes, it is "dropped” into the site before the game is set to begin. Interestingly, it was first developed at WACA, in the same city where the second game between India and Australia is scheduled - Perth.
The pitches are dropped-in during the off-season. During this time, a layer of clay is used to cover up the center of the ground. The curators let that remain throughout the season, as the moisture helps keep the pitch in working condition for the next season.
Before the start of a cricketing calendar, the curators further decide the amount of clay and grass that needs to be stripped off depending on the home team’s needs, opposition team’s weaknesses and various other factors.
Earlier, drop-in pitches were used so that the cricketing venues could be used for other sporting events and musical concerts. It is more common in Australia because it has relatively fewer well-equipped stadiums, and also because its football, rugby and cricketing seasons don’t clash.
But today, drop-in pitches are primarily used so that they can offer more than what can be manufactured if the same was developed at the ground. Many curators want bowler-friendly pitches these days so that there is an even balance between bat and ball, and that can be achieved through the means of a drop-in pitch.
The WACA stadium at Perth has had its soil imported down from Waroona, in the Peel region of Western Australia which is next to a river. The center of the WACA can hold 10 pitches, all different from each other.
The primary content of a drop-in pitch is the same as that of a normal pitch, but it is the combination of soil, clay and grass that makes all the difference.
Australian coach Justin Langer has hinted that the Optus stadium will sport a bouncy track and will have a touch of green to it. Earlier last month, the stadium did host South Africa for the one-day leg, and the pitch had plenty of bounce and pace, much like the traditional WACA stadium.
The second Test between India and Australia is set to begin on the 14th of December, and it will be interesting to see how the pitch behaves during the course of the match.