Hybrid pitches the solution? | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, December 30, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, December 30, 2019

Hybrid pitches the solution?

A long-standing discontent in Bangladesh cricket has been about the quality of pitches in the country, which have generally left the national cricketers unprepared to tackle challenging conditions while playing abroad.

It is almost a certainty that when a Bangladesh team tours outside the subcontinent and falter, the players blame the unresponsive pitches in the domestic circuit for their inability to adapt to seaming and bouncy pitches, especially in places like South Africa, New Zealand and West Indies.

The weather, environment and the soil in Bangladesh is perhaps one of the biggest reasons why the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) have not been able to prepare sporting pitches, which instead thwart seamers with less carry and bounce.

However, Bangabandhu Bangladesh Premier League side Chattogram Challengers’ English head coach Paul Nixon has prescribed developing hybrid wickets to groom youngsters and help cricket in Bangladesh.

UK-based company SIS Pitches actually design, manufacture, construct, install and maintain world-leading pitches for some of the biggest sports.

The surface installation technology has been developed by industry experts SIS Pitches and comes as new research reveals it could have significant benefits for players and clubs.

Hybrid pitches have been trialled in net areas and on main ground squares at a number of county cricket clubs since 2017. More recently, the company has installed hybrid cricket pitches at county cricket clubs across the United Kingdom ahead of the 2019 cricket season.

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) became the first to install two trial wickets using this technology at the prestigious National Cricket Performance Centre in Loughborough and they have now approved hybrid pitches for use in the Royal London One Day Cup, Vitality Blast and all formats of second XI cricket for the 2019 season.

According to reports, the pitches improved surface stability, reduced wear, reduced the impact of bowler’s foot holes and significantly extended the pitch’s durability. Further research this summer will be carried out to gauge whether there is increased pace and carry, and more consistent bounce from hybrid pitches.

In addition, repair works after play were reduced with a faster grass recovery time, while the surface remained more than 95 per cent natural turf, meaning it will crucially still behave like a normal wicket.

“We have hybrid pitches in UK. Hybrid pitches is 80 per cent artificial and there is bounce on the wicket. It gives the ball more bounce and carry and it can really help Bangladesh. When Bangladesh go abroad there is a bit more carry and bounce. I think Bangladesh cricket should invest in hybrid wickets and I will definitely write that in my findings in Bangladesh at the end of the tournament,’’ Nixon told reporters at the BCB Academy ground yesterday.

Weighing less than two tonnes and standing at 1.20m wide and 2m in length, the SIS Grass Universal machine provides quick, accurate and flexible stitching, with different depths and spacing using precise laser guidance making it a practical solution for groundskeepers who are challenged to maintain uniform grass quality in high-wear areas.

After installation, pitches are maintained for a minimum of eight weeks to allow the profile to settle and for all holes to close and anchor the SIS Grass fibres.

Hybrid cricket pitches have now been installed at Lancashire, Surrey, Lord’s, Nottinghamshire, Glamorgan, Somerset, Durham, Gloucestershire, Worcestershire, Warwickshire and at Loughborough University.

As the BCB is finding ways to improve the standard of domestic cricket, especially to improve the Tigers’ skills in the longest format of the game, it seems that taking advantage of such new technologies and experimenting with hybrid pitches in venues across the country could well be the way forward.

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