Harris, curator play down “grass cover” threat at MCG
MCG pitch curator Matt Page. (AFP Image)

As the Melbourne Cricket Ground gets ready to host the Boxing Day Test between India and Australia, all eyes are on the pitch in use. After the surface of the Optus Stadium in Perth was given an “average” rating by the ICC, what will the iconic MCG hold?

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The surface is expected to have more than just a tinge of grass on it, but it’s not something to worry about if batsman Marcus Harris and pitch curator Matt Page are to be believed. It was here at the MCG in October that Harris was playing a Sheffield Shield tie against Victoria and watching the green cover on the surface, predicted a finish in a day and a half. However, as it turned out, Harris bided time and scored a monumental 250, while the rest of the batsmen failed to even cross 50.

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“Pre-match when I saw the wicket I was really freaked out and I thought ‘this game’s going to be over in a day and a half and we’ve got blokes trying to vie for Test spots’, so I went into the game with no expectations on myself and the wicket actually played pretty well,” Harris told ESPNcricinfo. “It was relatively slow and stayed together.

“I saw this morning the wicket will probably be more similar to the South Australia game, where it had a bit more green grass on it, nipped around a bit but it was one of those wickets where if you play well you can make runs but if you bowl well you can take wickets.

“I think it’ll be the same old thing of patience, the MCG is never a really quick scoring ground anyway, so that’ll be the key, just realising things will take a while to evolve. Not sure the wicket will break up too much, but we’ll just have to wait and see. Fortunately, we’ve probably got the best bowling attack in the world so that looks after itself a little bit, but I think as batters a patience game will be the key and run rates won’t be as quick as what you’d like, but that’s the way it will be.”

After last year’s boring draw between England and Australia, efforts are being made to inject life into the MCG track. Curator Page is one under severe pressure to redeem the surface after it was deemed poor by the ICC and many former cricketers. For the Boxing Day Test, Page assures that the surface will dish out a competitive game with something for everyone.

“We want to provide an opportunity for everyone,” Page said. “Whether it’s the spinners, it’s the pace bowlers, or the batters. Providing them opportunities to be able to produce their world-class [skills] throughout a game, whether that’s quickies at the front, batters in the middle, spinners towards the end. It’s producing a pitch that everyone can show what they can do.

“I think this one will be very similar to the South Australian game which we were probably happy with the most. We were unlucky not to get a result through rain, but there seemed to be a bit there for everyone; a bit there for the quicks, a couple of guys scored hundreds and the feedback we got from that game was really positive. I know we are still three days out but are looking at a wicket that will be similar to that.”