Mehluli Sibanda, Senior Sports Reporter
WEST Indies coaches have urged Zimbabwe to liven up their Test cricket pitches in order to bring back excitement as well as fans to matches.
First to air his view was West Indies bowling coach Roderick Estwick who toured Zimbabwe with the Young West Indies way back in 1983. The former fast bowler said when he came on tour, the Queens Sports Club wicket was full of life which is not what he witnessed in the just ended two Tests where the pitch was slow and offered nothing for the bowlers.
“I remember playing here years ago back in 1983, it was really a good pitch to bowl on, had bounce, pace and carry, to see it 30 years later, it’s a lot slower and lower. Sometimes it might not be good for your cricket. You got to look at your pitches, I think pitches with pace makes for better cricket, it brings the spectators back as well,’’ he said.
While refusing to be drawn into Zimbabwe’s approach in the first Test, Estwick said the only way the fans can come to Test matches is when there is a possibility of seeing fast bowlers charging in to bowl.
“I don’t want to get into Zimbabwe’s tactics, that is their tactic and that’s their call but what I can say about the pitch is that it’s lost a lot of pace and for me going forward, if you want to bring spectators back to the stadiums your pitches got to have pace because there is nothing more exciting than seeing fast bowlers running at batsmen,’’ he said.
West Indies head coach, Stuart Law is of the view that preparing pitches which offer nothing for the bowlers could kill the prolonged version of the game.
“I know there is a lot of people saying Test cricket is dying, on a pitch like that yeah it is, no disrespect to them, they played the conditions, they utilised what they had to, to get ahead but for the growth of the sport, to continue the growth of the sport, I think we need to be playing on better pitches,’’ Law said.
The former Australian batsman said coming from a tour of England where the ball was swinging and seaming, Zimbabwe ought to prepare such pitches.
“We have issues all round the world with the quality of pitches especially when a touring team lands on the shores, I would just like to see a better, an even contest between bat and ball, we have come from England where the ball was swinging and seaming, it provided great cricket, it really did,’’ he said.
Law is convinced that Zimbabwe have the quality to make it in the international game and lauded them for the big fight they put up in the drawn second Test, which concluded last Thursday.
“Zimbabwe are full of quality cricketers, to come here and beat them in their own patch I think it’s a tremendous effort. When the pitch offers you nothing on the last day, it certainly offered more on day one and two than it did on day four and five so credit to Zimbabwe, they played brilliantly, today (Thursday). They fought really hard,’’ Law said.
He reckons Zimbabwe’s test comes when they play away from home where they find the going tough because of the quality of wickets they prepare at home.
“The challenge for Zimbabwe, they have just come back into Test cricket, as I have said before they have got a number of really high class players. The challenge is always going away from home and to play your cricket on slow turgid nothing wickets it’s not really going to set yourself forward and continue your growth, to win games of cricket,’’ Law said.
However, national team coach, Heath Streak defended his tactics, stating that they prepare wickets looking at their own strengths and the opposition that they are playing against. In this occasion, Streak said they felt that spin was the best way to approach the series.
“We wanted spinning wickets, the wickets didn’t dry up and dust up, I thought the first wicket was better, the second wicket didn’t get it to dry up because of the weather, it would have had more pace and spun. In this instance, we felt our spin was our strength, if you see in the first Test, our spinners did well. If we play a Test against Bangladesh we would go with a less spin oriented attack, it depends on the opposition, Streak said.
West Indies won the Test series after taking the first by 117 runs while the second was drawn. It was the first time since January 2005 that Zimbabwe had managed a draw a draw in Test cricket with the last match involving the Southern African nation which failed to produce a result being the second five-day contest against Bangladesh played in Dhaka 12 years ago.
Zimbabwean all rounder, Sikandar Raza made history when he became only the second player to score 80 plus runs in both innings and take wickets after South African Jacques Kallis did so against West Indies in January 1999 in Cape Town.
Raza walked away with the Man of the Match award for the second Test while West Indies leg spinner Devendra Bishoo, with 13 wickets in the two match contest took home the Player of the Series accolade. -@Mdawini_29