Cricket: Action must be taken on pitches

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The Independent Online
THE pitch troubles on this tour was taken a stage further at the Recreation Ground yesterday, where yet another surface was produced that was not fit for Test cricket. Batting was a complete lottery.

The pitch was recently relaid and had not been tried out before this match. It was not altogether flat and it was much too damp. There was a crust on top to a depth of a three-quarters of an inch and the soil under this crust was extremely wet.

Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh made the ball explode and it was only through a mixture of skill, outrageous luck and two dropped catches that England did not lose a wicket in the 11 overs rain allowed before lunch and that no serious injury was sustained. Already, the pitch is scarred.

The West Indies Cricket Board needs to take urgent action over the pitches on its main grounds. Only in Barbados does it know what it is doing and the former West Indian fast bowler Richard Edwards, who understands his job backwards at Kensington Oval, must be given overall responsibility for all the Test pitches.

The locals in the territories other than Barbados are not going to like what they will consider to be foreign interference but the WICB governs the game in the regions and, although the members are a group of independent countries, they must each be persuaded to look to the common good rather than to petty parochial considerations.

The Sabina Park pitch in Kingston was relaid last October and then cared for by ground staff who did not know their job and had no supervision. Add in Trinidad and Guyana and none of the three pitches had the right amount of preparation, although this can be forgiven as far as the first Trinidad Test was concerned because they had only a week's notice of that rearranged match.

It may be that because those who run West Indies cricket, apart from the chief executive, Steve Camacho, are mainly marketing men, the seriousness of the problem may not be fully appreciated. Grounds that continue to produce pitches like these cannot sustain Test cricket for any length of time.Something must be done - and soon.