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MCG groundsman dismisses pitch conspiracy claims

December 23, 2010 10:13 IST

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 on Thursday.

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.

The MCG"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 December 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.

"We are quite slow on the first day normally and that probably causes the most difficulty for batsmen who want to get on with it, so patience is normally a fairly key ingredient here and if you don't have that you can be four or five down early on and game over."

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