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Expect flat tracks throughout the ODI series

Faisal Shariff in Karachi | March 15, 2004 16:05 IST

Ask English curator Andy Atkinson what is a good limited overs pitch and he replies simply, "One that's tailormade for batsmen."

Ask him about the bowler and he is almost contemptuous. "Bowlers play one-day cricket just to put the ball into play. At least that's what's been happening for the last 10 years."

For the record, Atkinson is the International Cricket Council's chief curator. He is currently in Pakistan to prepare wickets for the historic series against India.

The 46 year-old, who has been preparing wickets for the last three decades, also believes the home advantage should rest with the host team.

Ironically, the Karachi Limited Overs International was decided in the last over bowled by Ashish Nehra who displayed how Messrs Line and Length could counter the flattest of tracks. In a match that saw runs being piled on at the rate of seven an over, the left-arm quick, back from injury, allowed just three runs in the deciding over.

So, whatever happened to that theory about cricket being a 'contest' between bat and ball?

"It's not me alone," replies Atkinson. "The rules of the game also favour the batsmen in this format. Crowds come to see batsmen hit fours and sixes, not to see sides fold up for 110 runs."

So if limited overs cricket is for batsmen alone, why have bowlers at all? Why not pack sides with 11 batsmen and just watch a batting slugfest?

"You need bowlers," argues Atkinson. "You need good bowlers, but you don't want to see the ball seaming around and Sachin Tendulkar struggling to get bat to ball. You don't want to create a green top and have a bowler take 5-25. No one is interested in that.

"It is great to watch a fast bowler steam in and dart the ball at great speeds, but ask 100 people from the crowd and 99 will tell you that they would rather see batsmen hit boundaries and sixes."

About the Karachi game, which saw a record 693 runs scored in a day, Atkinson says it was the phenomenal first 15 overs from India that set the pace. "Karachi was a very good wicket," he says. "There was good, even bounce and the ball was coming on to the bat nicely. Ask the 33,000 people at the stadium, the millions watching on television. No one's complaining. This is what entertainment is all about. This is where the money is.

"Bowlers get batsmen in Tests. Of course, that is real cricket. Cricket for the connoisseurs. But the money is here in one-dayers."

Atkinson reveals that when he joined the ICC as a curator, his brief was to prepare wickets that produced a minimum of 500 runs in a day's game.

"The ICC wanted five runs an over scored to keep the interest going in the game. And believe me this is better than playing cricket in overcast conditions in England where the bowlers get on top and crowds fall asleep watching defensive cricket.

"What is 20-20 cricket in England for? Those guys need the crowds to come back! Cricket has to survive in England."

But Atkinson believes that what happened in Karachi was because of exceptional batting from both sides and to expect similar performances in the remaining four games would be ridiculous. "You get one exceptionally great game of cricket every 2-3 years," he says. "To expect such run chases in every game would be a little far-fetched."

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