Haven't switched Melbourne pitch: groundsman

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Published: Thursday, December 23, 2010, 17:04 [IST]
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Head groundsman of the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) Cameron Hodgkins, has flatly denied rumours that his staff conspired to switch to a drop-in grassier pitch that would favour Australia's pace attack for the upcoming fourth Test of the Ashes series. He said that such claims were "funny to read."

The chief staffer's reaction came to several allegation made by the British media that the pitch was in fact, switched only recently as a measure to encourage Australia's bowlers, who inflicted a 267-run defeat on England at Perth and squared the series 1-1.

Hodgkins categorically stated that the decision to use the grassier pitch out of the two drop-in wickets he had been preparing, was made well before the third Perth Test.

"Two weeks ago, just prior to our tour match (against England), it became pretty evident that my first option wasn't going to be ideal for what I'd envisioned for a Test pitch and I was able to then go to what I felt would be a better surface," he told reporters at the MCG's indoor practice nets. "It was entirely a personal thing and something I did two weeks ago so it wasn't on the spur of anything that happened over the last week or so."

Asked whether the controversy has agitated him after all the hard work he has put into preparing the wicket, Hodgkins replied smilingly, in the negative. Hodgkins added that the track for the Test starting on Dec. 26 would prove far less unpredictable than that at Perth's WACA ground, where England's batsmen were skittled for 187 and 123.

"I would think on the WACA's worst day they would still be faster and bouncier than anything we normally turn out. We traditionally are not a very fast and bouncy surface," he said.

"The MCG's never been accused of being fast and bouncy. It's more of a wicket which offers a little bit up front and is quite flat towards the end of the match."

The pitch would be expected to offer something for all bowlers early on before drying out and becoming more batsman-friendly over the course of the Test, leaving Australia's selectors plenty to ponder.

The decision to play a four-pronged pace attack was vindicated at Perth, but of-spinner Michael Beer has been retained in the 12-man squad for Melbourne.


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