Pakistan chairman 'not happy' with pitch that is unfit for Test cricket

Pakistan's Abdullah Shafique (L) and teammate Imam-ul-Haq (R) bump their bats during the second day of the first cricket Test match between Pakistan and England at the Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium, in Rawalpindi on December 2, 2022 - Aamir Qureshi/AFP
Pakistan's Abdullah Shafique (L) and teammate Imam-ul-Haq (R) bump their bats during the second day of the first cricket Test match between Pakistan and England at the Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium, in Rawalpindi on December 2, 2022 - Aamir Qureshi/AFP

The lifeless pitches will continue throughout this series and Ramiz Raja, the Pakistan Cricket Board chairman, has admitted they are just not good enough for Test cricket.

The pitch in Rawalpindi was marked “below average” by the match referee after only 14 wickets fell in a Test match with Australia earlier this year and so far the surface for this match is no better.

England were bowled out before lunch on day two after smashing 657 at 6.5 an over but only two players were actually dismissed by good balls, the rest fell playing attacking shots summing up how much help there was for bowlers.

There is no pace, very little turn and a complete imbalance between bat and ball. The groundsman shaved bare two pitches either side of the main surface to try and promote reverse swing but there has been little movement.

Raja has explored exporting drop in pitches from Australia but they were deemed too expensive. Instead he wants to grow drop in pitches at home and modernise ground preparation techniques.

Pitch preparation and facilities stagnated while Pakistan did not host international cricket for a decade and it is only now the problem is being addressed but it will not be in time for this tour with Raja saying they are “light years” away from producing good pitches. It is why there have been more draws in Pakistan than anywhere else.

Ollie RObinson - Anjum Naveed /AP
Ollie RObinson - Anjum Naveed /AP

“Not happy at all,” he said about the surface. “Our way out is for drop-in pitches because all the surfaces are more or less the same. So if you want to nail England, for example, on a spinning track then we’ve got to prepare a drop-in pitch that turns from ball number one, rather than having this hodge podge where you get a half-baked pitch which is neither quick nor spin a lot.”

Raja said the pitches were worse in his day as a Pakistan player in the 1980-90s but there is more emphasis now on entertainment because supporters have other options for leisure time.

There is a decent crowd for this Test, almost a full house on Friday, but there is a novelty value to England playing here. With the Pakistan Super League T20 hugely popular, there is a worry crowds will drift away if turgid Test cricket is served up.

“I have not cracked the code regarding a Test-match pitch, unfortunately," he said. "The reason why I am stressing on drop in pitches is you go to Multan or Karachi you will get a similar flavour. You don't get bounce. T20 and ODIs are fine. The pitch doesn't come under that kind of scrutiny. But we are still years away from creating a good five-day pitch."