Cricket Pitch- Everything You Need to Know About It

Introduction

Where do most of the actions and excitement take place in the game of cricket? The obvious answer is The Pitch or Wicket. No doubt that, the attributes of the pitch effect on the gameplay in numerous ways. But how much you actually know about it?

For people who are exploring about cricket pitches for the first time, here is the basic definition- A Cricket Pitch is a central strip of a cricket field between the wickets. It’s a flat surface covered with extremely short grass. Cricket fans sometimes also term it as a ‘Wicket’. Which is technically incorrect though, as long as the rule book of cricket terms is concerned.

Being a years-long cricket fan, I had a plan to come up with an article that contains everything one would like to know about a cricket pitch. And here I am.

First thing first, let’s start with the technical facts-

About Cricket Pitch: Basic Terminology

There is a lot we hear about pitch but barely understand. So, before proceeding to the detailed parts of the content, here is a list of basic terms regarding cricket pitch-

  • Square- The rectangular space in the centre of the entire length of cricket pitch.
  • Projected Area- Also known as the Danger Area. It's a 2 feet wide rectangle at the centre portion of the pitch and used to be a rectangle running down the middle of the pitch. The bowler mustn't move around this area after the delivery.
  • State of the Pitch- A bowler's view of the pitch, from the perspective of bowling position.
  • Bowling Crease- A line on both ends across the width of the pitch. It’s supposed to create a boundary line of bowler’s run-up.
  • Popping Crease- Another line across the width at 4 feet I front of bowling crease. While bowling, the bowler's feet are supposed to be grounded behind the popping crease.

How Much Does It Affect The Game?

It’s beyond description that how importance the pitch carries in the game. From ground structure to performance of the player, everything has something to do with the condition of the pitch. As an example, if we talk about the estimated size of a cricket field, the centre of the pitch is the place from where the measurement starts.

However, if we keep our concern on gameplay only, here are some crucial effects of pitch condition on it-

Pitch Condition
Effect on Bowlers
Effect on Batsmen
Pitch has grass on it.
The ball is bound to swing.
Will face hardship to face fast bowlers.
Pitch is plain and has no crack.
No extra swings in balls.
Can score more run and run faster between the wickets.
Pitch is dry and has cracks on it
Spin ball will turn more than what it’s supposed to.
It’ll hard to face spinners and medium fast bowlers as well.

Based on what's in the pitch reports, captain decides which facilities his team needs the most. And therefore, chooses between batting and bowling after winning the toss.

Cricket Pitch Types

No wonder that a wide variation of cricket pitches there depends on the ball's behavior on them. So, it’s not easy to describe all of the pitch types is a queue. Rather, I tried to classify them based on the perspective and purpose of use.

Here they are-

Green Pitch and Dry Pitch

A pitch layered with a decent amount of grass. In this type of pitches, an extra portion of care is taken while mowing the ground before the game. The presence of grass affects the game a lot. One example is- the seamers get a huge advantage of extra swing in deliveries.

On the other hand, dry pitches are exactly the opposite. There is a tiny amount of moisture where a lot of cracks in them. As mentioned earlier, these are favors of spin bowlers specially

Covered and Uncovered Pitches

At the early decades of cricket, it used to be played on uncovered pitches. After the 1960s, this tradition started to fade out. Groundsmen started a practice to cover the pitch during off-plays to protect it from dew or rain.

To be mentioned, during to the Law 11 of ICC Code of Cricket, it's prohibited to cover a pitch, unless provided completely. 

Artificial Cricket Pitches

In low budget amateur matches, mostly artificial pitches are used in many countries. An artificial pitch is an overlaid slab of concrete with artificial turf, coir mat and sometimes, dirt. Cricket pitch size of artificial ones aren’t fixed though.

Sticky Pitch/Wicket

A sticky pitch is something exactly opposite of a dry pitch. It's used to fry out subsequently after it gets wet once. As a result, the behavior of the ball varies erratically and becomes unpredictable.

Dry/Dust Bowl Pitches

This is actually peculiar! In a 5-days test match, the pitch begins to crack after a couple of days of play. As an immediate result, it crumbles and becomes dusty. It occurs several discomforts for bowlers, especially for spin bowlers to obtain their traction. These certain of pitch behavior is named as Minefield or Dust Bowl.

Although most of these variations of pitches are there in the rule book. But in the practical field, some of them are hardly seen. As an example, a Sticky Pitch is rare to find in modern 1st class cricket. Because pitches are well-protected from dew and rain before and after the game. 

The Art of Constructing A Pitch

While constructing a pitch or wicket, specialized materials and complex processed are followed through. To ensure certain properties like Ball Bounce, constructors have a lot to do. It includes from preparing the soil and clay, creating drainage layer, trimming the sub-soil, topsoil replacement and much more. When it comes to removing an old pitch, and rebuilding a new one, the job becomes even harder.

However, as we promised to keep this article simple, we won’t let you go through technical difficulties. Rather, we have discussed the basics of a pitch construction in the list below-  

Size and Dimension

According to the laws of ICC Test Match Playing Conditions, there is a specific dimension that a pitch beholds. Typically, the length of cricket pitch and its width are 22 yards x 10 ft (10.12 x 3.05 meters) respectively. In terms of cricket pitch length in feet, it’s 66 ft x 10 ft.

Although, it’s not a verified information, but the cricket pitch length in footsteps vary from 25 to 30 steps.

Drainage Management

An important task to keep the pitch perfect is to ensure a proper drainage system. But how do they do it in such a hard soil?

A perimeter drain that surrounds the base of the pitch is created. Unless there is a risk of perched water developing table. Not to mention, the entire process requires a precise operation.

Material

No doubt that preparing something like a cricket pitch is a precise mixture of numerous materials. But there's no exact recipe for it. As long as the intention of pitch type varies from countries to countries, so do the materials.

But I can give you a list of common materials that most of the curators use. Top soil, turf, pitch powders, fertilizer, pesticides, ryegrass seeds and a whole lot of other materials are there in the list.

Pitch Performance: How to Determine?

There are three vital properties that decide how good or bad a cricket pitch is. Have a look-

  • The process through which the pitch is prepared.
  • The nature of the bulli.
  • Type of turf used to make the pitch.
  • How the water content of the bulli is controlled.

From deep research, I found that what matters most on the performance of a pitch is the bulli. If you don’t know yet, bulli is a core ingredient of the pitch with swell/shrink characteristics. It determines how much pace and bounce can be achieved by the bowler on that pitch.

It contains a number of composite ingredients such as Clays, Coarse sand, Calcium Carbonate, Sodium and some other organic matter. As per the demand of the host country, types and natures of bulli vary from country to country.

In an additional note, there are some other influencing factors of a pitch that defines it’s performances. Such as Cracking, Crumbing, Powdering, deterioration of the pitch, etc.

Reading the Pitch

We have seen the curators to walk over the pitch and predict on the pitch condition followed by the effects of it on the game. The question is, how do they do that?

To get the answers, you have come out of the cricket terms in everyday use. It’s an advanced task to understand the effects of a certain pitch condition on the game. You need to have the answers to these questions first-

  • How much grass is on the pitch?
  • How wet is it?
  • How hard is it?
  • What roller had been used to roll the pitch?

Having these answers in hand, even you can determine how pitch condition is going to help or trouble the bowlers. Although, you need to acquire certain cricket knowledge before you do that, no offense!

The Hard Job of Maintenance and Curation

We may know a lot on the wickets and scores, but there is something important that most of us don’t know. It’s about the complex process of maintaining a cricket pitch.

However, the job of pitch maintenance is a pretty hard nut to crack and had always been assigned to professional groundsmen. Look at the statement of Gary Barwell, a pitch curator of Warwickshire Country Club-

The day after the last day of play in September, a tractor with a scarifier - which is a heavy duty tool with tines - goes into the cricket square, followed by a number of operations including -

Sounds tough, right?

However, as you aren’t becoming a curator, here are the simplified versions of the maintenance steps of a pitch that you need to know-

Sweeping

As rolling brings a lot of weight on the pitch and there remains a chance of the pitch to crack up. So, the entire pitch is swept several times before it’s rolled everytime.

Mowing

To keep the grass on the pitch short, groundsmen mow the pitch at the day when a match is about to take place. When the game is going on, mowing gets under the supervision of match umpires.

Footholes

It may sound funny, but the umpires have to keep an eye on the footholes of the players. They have to make sure that players are with dry and cleaned out footholes, to avoid prior damage to the pitch.

Seasonal Operation

Based on the weather, the health of a pitch can vary a lot. Therefore, experts have always researched out season-specific maintenance process of it. As an example- it's requited to clean the surface and weed and apply fertilizer while it’s winter.

5 Facts on Cricket Pitch That Will Surprise You

  • Cricket pitch is exactly 22 yards long because of the length of One Chain which was a reliable form of measurements back then. One Chain is 22 yards, and so does the cricket pitch.
  • Before the beginning of an innings, captain of a team can request the rolling of the pitch for not more than 7 minutes.
  • One of the secrets behind India's strong batting lineup lies in their slow pitches on home grounds.
  • Apart from some exceptions, only Asian sub-continental countries are likely to make cracky and spin-friendly pitches.
  • If it rains at night before a cricket match, the bowlers will have extra facilities because of the highly-moisturized pitch.

Bottom Line

We are at the very bottom of our article and it's time to summarize it all. One thing to be noted- some of the information above can be tailored according to the situation and site of match. Still, I am pretty confident that you're already informed enough to move towards the advanced knowledge on Cricket.

Best of luck to that!

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