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Pitch prepared for 1st Test annoys SA coach

Published: Wednesday, October 31, 2001, 22:15 [IST]
 
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Bloemfontein: South African chief coach Graham Ford is sore with the authorities for not doing enough to ensure that the pitch for the first Test against India, starting on Saturday, was prepared keeping the home team's interests in mind.Concerned that the pitch, which has a reputation of being batsmen-friendly, may help the Indians who have a strong batting line-up as well as two of the world's best spinners in Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh, Ford called upon the groundsmen to use their 'expert knowledge' to prepare the pitch which suited the tourists so well. Stating that there was no reason for South Africa to host its opponents on sporting tracks when other countries prepared pitches according to their choice in their home series, Ford said he would have preferred to start their Test campaign on a lively pitch such as the one at Kingsmead in Durban. But the United Cricket Board of South Africa (UCBSA) decided to have the first Test in Bloemfontein. "The International Cricket Council (ICC) regulations do not allow us to prescribe to groundsman how they should prepare their pitches. "Since we returned to international cricket, we have followed that regulation to the letter, but the same cannot be said for other countries. They make sure their pitches are prepared to benefit the home team," he said. "Has South Africa ever played on a pace-friendly strip in India?" Ford asked. UCB wants every Test centre to have an equal chance of hosting a Test. That is fine, but if we want to become the top Test playing nation in the world, everybody - the groundsmen, the media and the administrators - will have do their bit. "Regarding the groundsmen, they should use their expert knowledge to prepare surfaces that do not suit the Indians so well," Ford said. Ford said he was convinced Goodyear Park groundsman Nico Pretorius would do everything in his power to prepare a pitch with pace and bounce, but admitted his team should be able to beat any opposition on any track. "In the end, we should be able to beat any team on any surface and under any circumstances. We have succeeded in doing that remarkably well over the past few seasons. South Africa is the country with the best away record in the world, so we have proved that we are not intimidated by tame pitches." Ford was not bothered by criticisms that the South African bowling attack lacks variety that the Indian team has. While the Indians have a right-arm seamer-Javagal Srinath, two left-arm fast bowlers- Ashish Nehra and Zaheer Khan, a leg spinner-Anil Kumble and an off spinner-Harbhajan Singh, South Africa has a host of right-arm seamers and pace bowlers and a solitary left-arm spinner. "People have been complaining for years about the lack of variation in the South African attack. But these same players keep on performing, thereby showing that the criticism is unfounded," Ford said. "This apparent shortcoming is no cause for concern. India has a well balanced attack, but in the end it depends on the chosen bowlers to do their job."

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