South Africa coach Ottis Gibson has defended the preparation of pitches suited to seam and swing after the facilities in the first two Tests at Centurion and Newlands came in for criticism from Pakistan coach Mickey Arthur.
Gibson called Arthur’s comments about the Newlands track “a little bit strange”, considering that Faf du Plessis scored a hundred during a day in which Pakistan’s own fast bowlers could only take four wickets.
“On that day, Faf got an amazing hundred,” Gibson said. “One of the best I’ve seen in a long time, and Pakistan only got four wickets. Yes the wicket was a little uneven, I’m not going to deny that, but Faf showed that you can still bat on it. Aiden [Markram] showed that you can still bat on it. Shan Masood showed that you can still bat on it and get runs. So I don’t think it was the worst pitch you’ve ever seen. We were in Sri Lanka not long ago, and I can tell you that they were a lot worse, in my opinion.”
“I don’t prepare the pitch, but we expect home pitches to favour our team,” Gibson said, while captain du Plessis insisted: “Any groundsman, you can ask them, our question to them is always ‘has the pitch got pace and bounce?’ And that’s all we’re looking for.”
“We never ever ask for ridiculous pitches,” du Plessis said. “We just ask for pitches with a bit of pace and bounce. So when there is a bit of seam movement and a bit of pace and bounce, you have to adapt to that. Temba [Bavuma] is a great example. He’s scored two Test matches in a row now on tough pitches, he’s scored runs. He shows that it’s possible if you apply yourself mentally, and you’ve got a good technique, there is a way.”
Gibson also argued that it was up to the ICC as the governing body of world cricket to decide upon the standards of pitches for Test cricket.
“If you get pitches that suit your attack, every other country does it,” he said. “Therefore we will continue to do it, until the ICC says to everybody ‘this is the standard pitch you prepare for Test cricket’, and everybody plays on it and it’s a level playing field for everybody. But at the moment, when you go away from home, you take what you get. We did that in Sri Lanka and it wasn’t nice. It wasn’t comfortable and we lost horribly.”
Arthur had bemoaned repeated stoppages in play as batsmen were attended to after being struck by the ball during South Africa’s first innings – du Plessis, Temba Bavuma and Hashim Amla all copped painful blows during the match. But Gibson suggested that batsmen getting hit by the ball is just part of the game.
rated “poor” by the ICC, receiving three demerit points. If the venue reaches a total of five demerit points during a five-year period, it will be suspended from hosting any international cricket for 12 months.