Former Australia captain Steve Smith has come out in support of the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) to remain as the permanent venue for the Boxing Day Test amid concerns over the quality of the pitch. This year, the Kangaroos will take on neighbours New Zealand at the iconic venue in the Test match starting December 26. It will be the second of the three-match series that the Trans-Tasman rivals will be playing starting December 12 when the first game kicks off in Perth.
The MCG pitch came under the scanner recently after a match in the Sheffield Shield was abandoned because of its unplayable nature. Several batsmen from the Western Australia team were hit on the body because of uneven bounces. Cricket Australia (CA) has assured that a different surface will be used for the Test match adding that it will continue to work with curator Matt Page to see that the pitch confirms to international cricket standards.
“He’s a good curator and he’ll be doing what he can to get us a good wicket for Boxing Day,” India Today cited agencies quoting Smith as saying in Perth on Monday. “Then I guess they have another year to work on their wickets to give us an even contest for bat and ball, that’s what we want to see.”
MCG wicket has received ordinary reviews over the last few years
The MCG wicket has received ordinary reviews over the past few years. In 2017, after the Boxing Day Test against England ended in a draw, the pitch was rated “poor” by the International Cricket Council for being too unfriendly for the bowlers. In 2018, it was rated “average” after India beat Australia by 137 runs in the Boxing Day Test. And now, in an effort to bring the pitch back to life, it has been apprehended that it has gone to the other extreme.
Drop-in wickets are though used in Melbourne, the MCG authorities are yet to adopt the latest drop-in pitch systems that are in use in venues like Adelaide and Perth, ESPNcricinfo reported.
Amid the debate, Smith batted for the MCG to continue hosting the Boxing Day match saying it is part of the tradition of Australian cricket for a long time.
“I’ve had some of my great memories of cricket walking out there on Boxing Day, listening to the anthems, you get kind of a shiver down your spine,” the 30-year-old said, adding: “The Boxing Day Test in Melbourne is something I look forward to every year. It’s a great occasion and I would love for Melbourne to keep it.”
The MCG needs to get back to shape fast or else it risks losing games. A venue that gets five demerit points if the pitch gets a “below average”, “poor” or “unfit” rating over a period of five years will be banned from hosting any international match for a year.
Australia’s last victory in a Boxing Day Test match came in 2016 when they had beaten Pakistan by an innings and 18 runs.
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