The million dollar question: What makes for a perfect pitch

The test series between India and England heated up the perpetual debate of a good pitch, and who it should favour.

There are two answers to this question. One is the notion that most fans have had for several years, while the other is a bit different.

The general conception which cricket fans absorb, mostly while listening to commentary, is that the best test pitch is the one which challenges the opening batsmen, particularly in the first session on day 1 of a match. It should then get better to bat as the game moves forward and is at its best on day 1 and day 2.

It begins to play a few tricks by the end of day 3 and becomes difficult for batting. At the same time, it provides seam for pace bowlers through the match and the ball should not come on to the bat gun barrel straight, even when it becomes old.

On days four and five, the pitch begins to break down and offer spin which is when the tweakers come into the game. This can be classified as an ideal pitch for places like Australia and England where the pitch which brings bowlers into the match generally assumes the bowlers to be pacers, as that is the traditional form of bowling in those countries. However, in the context of India and the subcontinent, the definition of a good pitch might be different.

In vacuum, the definition of a good pitch is one that has good balance between bat and ball. In places like India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka pitches tend to offer more to spinners than to the pace bowlers. This is not only the inherent nature of the pitches in these countries but by years of playing on such tracks, the spin bowlers in this countries have gained more skills as compared to their counterparts in countries like New Zealand, South Africa, Australia or England

At the same time, the batters of the subcontinent are considered well equipped to bat on spinning tracks. This is why pitches that offer considerable spin, not dangerous but enough to keep bowlers interested at all times, might be considered a prototype for a good pitch in Asia. In essence, a seaming surface where the batsmen have to work hard for every run, might be a good pitch but is not the only ideal option available.

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