Mirpur solution ‘not impossible’, says Kolkata curator
In the aftermath of Bangladesh's debacle in the ICC World Cup, the importance of having sporting pitches at home arrived in full force in the midst of discussions.
Despite having the opportunity to play on batting-friendly wickets throughout the apex event in India, Bangladesh's inability to meet the modern-day requirements of scoring big as the Tigers had to wait till their last match, against Australia, to post a 300-plus total. Stand-in skipper Najmul Hossain Shanto remarked after the game that it had a lot to do with their lack of the know-how of scoring big.
On the bowling front, Bangladesh pacers were thoroughly disappointing despite arriving into the tournament with an abundance of promise. Surprisingly, if not on equal terms, India quicks have been a cut above the rest, garnering heaps of praise from greats of the bygone era.
And thus, coming to the forefront once again is the Sher-e-Bangla National Cricket Stadium in Mirpur, which continues to stage an overwhelming majority of local and international matches, baffling experts and fans alike -- if not the decision makers in Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB).
India is arguably the best example of how building sporting pitches throughout a nation can completely alter its cricketing culture, as their long-term strategy is currently reaping benefits on the international scene.
Historically, India had been renowned for creating rank turners that catered to the spinners against the visiting sides. However, since 2012, under the leadership of former BCCI chief curator Daljit Singh, the focus was replaced with the goal of creating sporting tracks for the greater good.
Chief curator of Kolkata's Eden Gardens stadium, Sujan Mukherjee, told The Daily Star yesterday, "Look, there was a time when not many quality pacers popped up from India, but now India have one of the best fast-bowling units in the world. The youngsters are enjoying bowling on grassy surfaces and we are getting new fast bowlers.
"Playing on good wickets resulted in players getting that exposure to improve their game. So, the wicket plays a vital role behind the development of a player. Yes, hard work, dedication and skills are there but if you don't play in sporting pitches, you won't be able to become a good cricketer."
Sujan has been working with the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) for the past ten years and is the person in charge behind producing sporting tracks in the ongoing World Cup. Ahead of the second semi-final between South Africa and Australia, he was busy preparing the Kolkata pitch and explained how Mirpur surface can attain similar nature.
"The most important thing is the soil; it has to be good. We have installed the Bermuda grass and it has to be deep-rooted and made sure it sticks to the soil properly, so that the pitch could hold the grass.
"What I observed about the Mirpur pitch is that it starts to crack and open up after some time. It doesn't matter whether it's a black soil or red soil, the most important thing is how you maintain it and whether it has the ability to hold properly.
"You need to search and find out the appropriate soil, and the curator needs to look around for that. Change the entire soil of the square [if needed]. It doesn't take more than eight to ten weeks to change the entire soil and then you have to give some fertilizers and medicines. It's nothing impossible as you need that urge to improve," he said.
The players have to feel safe wherever they play, and the pitch gives them the freedom to do so, according to the former cricket player who participated in the Dhaka Premier League in the middle of the 1980s.
While there have been claims of club administrators and board members interfering with the type of pitches they want in local and international series in Bangladesh, Sujan stated that curators in India never receive such orders, allowing them to work freely.
"We don't get any instructions from the board on how to prepare pitches, not even in domestic cricket, because the main thing is that we need to produce sporting pitches. I've been working for ten years now, supervising four venues in Kolkata, but I've never received any directives from the board.
"Even the Kolkata Knight Riders, whose home ground this is, never asked me to do so. I have the freedom to prepare the pitches, and no one comes in and tells me to modify the nature of the surface. Batters can play their strokes because the ball comes on to the bat nicely, seamers can bowl fast and get good bounce, and spinners can also get purchase on this wicket because it's a competitive wicket," he said.
It will be interesting to see if BCB finally recognizes the importance of preparing sporting pitches at home in order to achieve the desired results on the international stage, especially after the World Cup debacle, or if they will continue to look for scapegoats without digging deep to find a solution.