Smith weighs in on ‘dangerous’ MCG debacle
Australia's preparation for the Test series against New Zealand has been thrown a curve ball with the MCG abandonment adding another issue.
Players have rallied behind the ground to defend it and its place on the Australian sporting calendar.
But Cricket Australia's head of operation Peter Roach has criticised the curators for doing too much to make the pitch more competitive.
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The 2017 Boxing Day Test was deemed "poor" by the ICC and the ground has copped plenty of criticism over recent years.
Last year, it was rated "average" with India defeating Australia by 137 runs.
It was the first time an Australian ground had been rated "poor" and threatened the future of the ground under ICC policies that could strip the ground of the right to host international fixtures if it acquired enough demerit points.
Roach said MCG curators went too far in the other direction, which led the abandonment of the Sheffield Shield match between Victoria and Western Australia.
Warriors duo Shaun Marsh and Marcus Stoinis had to undergo concussion tests after balls spat up dangerously from the deck on Saturday and hit them on the head.
"We want to see more movement in that wicket and more action in those early days of the Test match," Roach told SEN on Monday.
"They (the curators) have gone on the path to try and do that. This time they went a little bit far, but the learning from that is that they now know what they can and can't do.
"We've got confidence for the Test match on Boxing Day and we look forward to the 26th of December.
"We don't tailor (pitches) to our own teams' needs. What we want our grounds to do is to produce their own unique characteristics.
"With the MCG, what we've highlighted is that we want it to have some pace and bounce and some sideways movement."
But cricketers have come out in defence of the wicket, including Aussie star Steve Smith.
Speaking at a press conference ahead of the first Test against New Zealand in Perth, Smith said the pitch had been quite flat for some years with the curators trying to inject more life.
"They're trying to get more life into it to make it an even contest between bat and ball and this time there was a bit of moisture in the wicket - from what I've heard it was quite wet," he said. "Then when it hardened up, the divots took over. It's a fine line with that wicket and Pagey's a very good curator and he'll be working as hard as he can to get a wicket that is suitable for bat and ball. It's tough, these guys have a tough job."
The issues have raised the possibility of the MCG losing the traditional Boxing Day Test but it's something Smith doesn't want to see.
"I'd love for it to stay, it's been part of the tradition of Australian cricket for a long time and I've had some of my great memories from cricket walking out there on the first morning on Boxing Day and listening to the anthems and you get a shiver down your spine," he said. "The Boxing Day Test in Melbourne is something I look forward to every year, it's a great occasion and I'd love for Melbourne to keep it."
Similarly, the SCG has had its issues and Smith said part of the issue could have been the amount of different sports on the grounds as the curators often have their hands tied in developing pitches when other sports are played.
Victorian skipper Peter Handscomb defended the wicket, saying the pitch was "half a day" away from being ready.
"Some balls were rearing off a length and things got a bit dangerous. Player safety was key and I couldn't see a way that we could go forward," he told RSN927's Breakfast Club.
"I feel for Pagey. He has done some great work at the MCG since he came over from Western Australia. He has been trying to prepare wickets that we can get a result in four days.
"He probably pushed the boundaries in this game but he was probably only half a day from producing a beautiful, result-driven wicket."
Former Aussie quick Peter Siddle admitted the pitch "didn't look any different to the wickets we have played on in the last two games here at the MCG".
"But as the sun dried out the wicket a little bit more and the ball started to quicken up a bit it started to react a little more dangerously," he told SEN.
"Once the batsmen had been hit a few times the umpires wanted to consult the players and it was probably Shaun Marsh the WA captain who had a couple of chats with the umpires and he was out there when a lot of it was happening and I happened to hit him a couple of times."
Regardless of the issues, the Melbourne Cricket Club are looking to continue to move forward despite the setback.
"We don't want to overcorrect and go backwards again and everyone be conservative," MCC chief executive Stuart Fox said.
"We've worked really hard over the last 18 months to try to produce really good pitches and we have produced two really good ones for the two Sheffield Shield (games) prior to this.
"We may have just pushed it a little bit too far (for this Shield match) but through a little bit of adversity, we may have actually created a benchmark … for the curators to now make some adjustments."
- with AAP