Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Swans reignite SCG pitch debate, call for drop-ins

Former Test captain Tim Paine described the pitch for a Sheffield Shield game between NSW and Tasmania as an “absolute disgrace” after 24 wickets fell on the final day. Australia batter Matt Short raised eyebrows with comments he made in a mid-game interview, expressing surprise at the dry and patchy track used for last Sunday’s one-day international against the West Indies.

But Test batter Usman Khawaja, who debuted for NSW in 2008, said this year’s Test pitch was a return to the SCG’s former glory.

Australian captain Pat Cummins inspects the SCG pitch ahead of this year’s Test against the West Indies.

Australian captain Pat Cummins inspects the SCG pitch ahead of this year’s Test against the West Indies.Credit: Getty

Cowan said the couch grass being used at the SCG was not conducive to producing good cricket pitches, unlike the legend couch used previously, which was ideal for cricket but lost colour in winter.

“It [the grass now] basically doesn’t work, so they’re in a situation now of balancing the needs of the SCG,” Cowan said on the ABC’s Grandstand Cricket Podcast.

“They need to go back, or they need to dig it up or go to the drop-ins because in my view what is currently in place and the strategy around the turf at the SCG is not appropriate.

“We’ve had a phenomenal summer in Sydney for growing grass. Something needs to happen. I don’t know what it is. Someone needs to be accountable.”

Sydney Swans chairman Andrew Pridham wants drop-in cricket pitches used at the club’s home ground, the SCG.

Sydney Swans chairman Andrew Pridham wants drop-in cricket pitches used at the club’s home ground, the SCG.Credit: Eamon Gallagher

Cricket NSW chairman John Knox said the state association wanted whatever system would produce the best quality pitch. His statement to this masthead is a shift from CEO Lee Germon’s steadfast opposition in a 2019 submission to an SCG Trust drop-in pitch committee due to fears they would produce “boring” cricket.

“Cricket NSW wants the best possible cricket pitch at the SCG to allow the best players in the world to demonstrate their skill, while providing enormous entertainment to all fans, most importantly inspiring the young girls and boys watching at the ground and on television to play and love cricket, hopefully one day emulating their heroes,” Knox said.

“The debate around a drop-in pitch is irrelevant anyway, as it is our understanding that drop-in pitches require significant access and infrastructure that is not currently available at the SCG.”

Pridham said it was “rubbish” the SCG could not accommodate the sizeable trays needed to move the drop-in pitches.

“They can land a man on the moon in 1969, they can certainly get a drop-in wicket onto thee SCG in 2024,” Pridham said.

“They can do it in pieces. It’s purely politics between Cricket NSW and the SCG it hasn’t happened. The arguments about technological barriers are not substantiated.

“The only cogent argument I’ve heard against it is cost. It will cost more, but let’s focus on the truth rather than coming up with false reasons.”

In a cheeky jab, Cricket NSW disputed Pridham’s assertion the AFL club was the SCG’s major tenant, pointing out that cricket fans spent more time at the ground, even though the Swans drew more people through the gates for their 11 games last year than cricket did for its Tests, ODI and Big Bash games this summer.

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“Cricket is the most important sport played at the SCG. This season almost 300,000 spectators spent over 1.2 million hours at the ground watching elite cricket – over 50 per cent more hours than any other sport,” Knox said.

Venues NSW, the body which operates the SCG, declined to comment.

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