What are drop-in pitches in cricket? History, Preparation, Uses, Pros and Cons

A drop-in pitch in cricket is a traditional method of preparing a pitch for a cricket match away from the selected venue and then dropping it in the middle for a scheduled match. Such pitches might take several years to prepare, and the ground staff are expected to glance after them with immense care to ensure it is sustained for a few seasons before the conditions deteriorate and are abandoned. These pitches are brought into the stadium with the help of giant cranes.

A few examples of drop-in pitches include the Melbourne Cricket Ground, Adelaide Oval, Optus Stadium in Perth, and many others in New Zealand. Recently, the Nassau County International Cricket Stadium in New York decided to include drop-in pitches for the upcoming T20 World Cup 2024.

This guide will provide you the interesting information about a brief history of drop-in-pitches, their preparation, reasons for their use, and pros and cons.

How did Drop in Pitches Start? A Brief History

The drop-in pitches were first adopted in the 1970s and created by John Maley, who worked for the Western Australia Cricket Association. Later, they were made for cricket matches in World Series Cricket, started by an Australian businessman named Kerry Packer in the 1970s.

During that period, the Australian cricket governing body restricted Kerry Packer from using major cricket stadiums in Australia. This forced him to use a few of the football venues to conduct his tournament.

To introduce a cricket pitch in the middle of the stadium, Packer employed a designer named John Maley, who planned and executed the set-up process of drop-in-pitches. By growing the pitches indoors in greenhouses, he facilitated the growth of Couch grass, also known as Bermuda Grass to cover the top surface of the pitch. Finally, the pitch trays were removed from the greenhouse and dropped to the ground using a truck.

On 3rd October 1996, StrathAyr, a turf specialist company in Australia, tested a new type of cricket pitch at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) by installing a new type of pitch by naming it as “drop-in-pitch”. Following the success at MCG, the other venues in Australia and different countries around the world began to make use of drop-in-pitches.

Preparation of Drop-in-Pitches

Typically, the drop-in-pitches are designed using a base structure consisting of high-quality steel frames or concrete clay. The curators have the flexibility to design the pitches according to the specific requirements.

These are the main steps involved in preparing the drop-in-pitches:

  1. Construction: Using a special tray system, the pitch is constructed off-site, and a tray is designed to be easily transported and installed at the venue.
  2. Preparation: In a similar method of planning traditional pitches, drop-in-pitches are prepared off-field for flattening the pitch, compressing the soil, and ensuring the exact type of grass used for specific conditions.
  3. Installation: To ensure that the pitch is positioned accurately and gets fixed in a proper place, the drop-in-pitches are transported to a fixed venue and installed in a specific spot on the field.
  4. Maintenance: Once the pitch is installed, it requires frequent maintenance to ensure its good condition. It involves watering, cutting down excess grass, rolling, and pitch repairs when required.
  5. Testing: To meet the essential standard, the pitch requires testing on various aspects such as bounce, roll, and other evaluations to check its quality and suitability for playing.

Why Drop-in-Pitches are Used?

Mainly,  drop-in-pitches are used at stadiums that host several sports other than cricket which include rugby, football, hockey, and several others. Also, multiple stadiums in Australia and New Zealand host a variety of sports at a common venue.

The drop-in-pitches are used only during the cricketing seasons, and once the tournament is concluded, the pitches are transported to a separate location where they are safely stored and used for the next match. Furthermore, the artificial turf is rolled over the ground to make it look like a uniform circle of grass.

The games between cricket and football can be swapped at the same venue since the pitches can be transported using a holding tray, they are maintained and prepared in a nursery site or a greenhouse without any further usage. Also, the wickets are moved safely with the machine to diminish the damage to the outfield. 

Pros and Cons of Drop-in Pitches

PROS:

  • Easy transition for different types of events, thereby reducing the downtime and making the event more commercially viable.
  • Simple maintenance and reduces wear and tear.
  • Fewer cracks and deterioration compared to standard pitches.
  • Once the cricket season is complete, these pitches can be pulled by the same machines, with a slight rolling on the grass to make the surface look even.

CONS:

  • Excessive flat-nature pitches can cause issues with bounce and pace variations.
  • Difficult to adapt to the challenges posed by drop-in-pitches that vary from the traditional pitches.
  • Expensive costs and complex logistics.
  • Players cannot experience the natural essence of playing cricket.
  • Supports batsmen rather than bowlers, thereby making the contest completely one-sided.

Conclusion:

Cricket has seen a huge transformation in the 21st century to add a special layer of entertainment for all fans, thereby making it more market-friendly and environmentally sustainable. As a result, drop-in-pitches have been one such innovation that has been used in different parts of the world.

Overall, to provide a high-quality playing surface on the drop-in-pitches, it is essential to have strategic planning, coordination, and supervision. Most importantly, a curator should have an in-depth understanding of the nature of the pitch and to achieve the desired output, the calculation to have a combination of soil, grass, and clay should be accurate.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *