MCG groundsman dismisses pitch conspiracy claims

MELBOURNE, (Reuters) – Allegations of pitch   doctoring to favour Australia’s attack for the fourth Ashes   test against England have been “funny to read”, the Melbourne   Cricket Ground’s head groundsman said yesterday.

British media alleged local cricket authorities had   conspired to switch to a grassier drop-in wicket to aid   Australia after their pacemen fired the hosts to a 267-run   victory in Perth that levelled the five-test series at 1-1.

A livelier wicket would indeed favour the hosts’ pace   brigade but head groundsman Cameron Hodgkins said 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.

“I haven’t been annoyed because I haven’t taken (the   controversy) seriously,” added Hodgkins, saying the last time   he had spoken to a Cricket Australia official was in the   country’s winter.

“For someone who keeps a fairly low profile, it’s been   funny to read.”

Hodgkins implied 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.

After a week of conjecture, Australia left spinner Michael   Beer to carry the drinks at Perth, where the curator told   local radio he would have played a spinner.

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

“We are an improving surface and quite often our carry is   best on day two, early on day three,” Hodgkins said.

“Most of the turn we have is day one, something I would   describe as damp turn.

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