Pakistan Cricket Board Chairman Ramiz Raja, in an honest assessment, admitted that the pitch used for the first Australia-Pakistan Test in Rawalpindi was not good publicity for Test cricket. Raja’s comments came after the first test, a historic ended in a boring draw with only 14 wickets falling over the course of 5 days.
Pakistan went 476/4 in their first innings before edging out Australia with 459 on the final day. In response, Pakistan scored 252/0 as both openers Abdullah Shafique and Imam-ul-Haq scored 100 each. The bowlers worked hard on the Rawalpindi pitch with Australia’s all-powerful attack and managed just 4 wickets despite bowling in Pakistan for almost 3 days.
As Raja conceded, fans were not satisfied with the pitch on offer as Pakistan welcomed Australia for the first time in 24 years. However, the PCB chairman stressed that the nature of pitches could not be changed overnight and he had not had the time to prepare a sportier wicket for the 1st Test.
“A tie is never good advertisement for Test cricket and I totally understand that nowadays we have to get a result in five days and we get it 90% [of the time]but I want to remind you of 2-3 things,” Raja said in a video message posted on YouTube.
Raja added that Pakistan is careful not to prepare a pitch that matches Australia’s strengths and plays into the visitors’ hands.
First of all, some of the headlines concerned what I said when I took office [as chairman] that pitches need to be renewed in Pakistan, massively renewed, but I took over in September and the season had already started.
“It takes 5-6 months to prepare pitches and during the off-season you will see soil coming from Australia; we have been experimenting, consulting soil experts and preparing soils and we will plant 50-60 pitches from scratch in Pakistan once our Season ends in March-April.”
“I understand the fans’ frustration – no doubt it would have been very good if we had had a result, but this is a three-test series and we have to understand that there is still a lot of cricket to be played. Just for the hell of it, we can’t set up a fast pitch or a bouncy pitch and put the game in Australia’s lap,” he added.
Raja pointed out that there were doubts about Pakistan’s opening couple, the Imam, who returned to the test side for the first time in two years, and young Shafique, who lacks the experience to face quality attacks like Australia’s.
“WE COULD NOT GO INTO EXPERIMENTAL MODE”
Raja also stressed that the absence of Hasan Ali and Faheem Ashraf hasn’t helped their cause when it comes to taking advantage of pace-friendly conditions if they were offered at Rawalpindi.
“So if your opening hitting pair and your bowling pair are both disrupted and raw, you can’t take any chances. Our legspinner wasn’t ready, Yasir Shah wasn’t fit so we came on the field understaffed 15 and Australia don’t forget are a global powerhouse and came here after they won the Ashes. We respect their talent. That’s why we couldn’t go into an experimental mode so early and keep an eye on our strengths,” he added.
“I understand that this performance has given us a lot of confidence. The hitting has sparkled and on the bowling front a spinner [Nauman Ali] has taken six wickets. So these are bright spots.”
The 2nd Test between Australia and Pakistan begins on March 12 at the National Stadium in Karachi.