Call for pitch supremo

March 25, 1998

Barry Jarman, match referee throughout the West Indies-England test series, yesterday added his support for the appointment of a pitch supremo to supervise test pitches around the world.

His comments came at the end of a tour bedevilled by complaints about pitches and where the first test was abandoned after only an hour because of fears for the batsmen's safety.

"The contents of my report are confidential until they reach the ICC (International Cricket Council) but I feel that the appointment of an expert in soil, the preparation of wickets and their behaviour may be the only way," said Jarman, Australia's wicketkeeper 30 years ago.

The first test at Sabina Park in Jamaica was called off after 10.1 overs after several England batsmen were hit by viciously rearing balls.

The first of two games in Trinidad, on a pitch prepared in haste because of the hastily rearranged tour caused by the abandonment of the first test, was described as "not fit for a test" by England captain Michael Atherton.

The third, which England won to square the series, was called "bowler friendly" by England coach David Lloyd.

England believe West Indies won the fourth test in Guyana because it gave far too much help for the spinners after West Indies won the toss and made 352.

Only the fifth test pitch at Barbados was universally praised. Jarman described it as a superb example of the groundsman's art.

That was to be the highpoint in pitches for the series.

The sixth test was played on newly-relaid pitch and Brian Lara had no hesitation in packing the close-in field right from the start after putting England in to bat in the knowledge the bounce of the ball would be unreliable.

So it proved throughout much of the first day, although England's poor batting aided their collapse to 127 all out.

Jarman described the ideal pitch. "I believe that most, if not all, test pitches should conform to a pattern. They should have some devil on the first day, favour the batsmen for a couple of days and then gradually give more and more help to the spinners.

"That's how they used to be and that is how they still are at my home ground of Adelaide. They make for a good and fair game of cricket.

"The pitch in Barbados produced just such a game. It was an almost perfect example of what a test pitch should be.

"I will obviously be discussing the other pitches for this series in my report to the ICC and they will publish those conclusions at the appropriate time. But I am certainly in favour of more uniform test pitches and I think it may be necessary for the ICC to find someone to supervise their preparation."

But he said the problem was not just in the Caribbean. "There are pitch problems throughout the world," he said.

After the fiasco of the first test in Jamaica, resignations were submitted by four people in charge of pitch preparation, including the president Jackie Hendricks. But they were rejected by 22 votes to two at a meeting of the Jamaican Cricket Board last week.