Sport Cricket Cricket: David Warner says Perth pitch, not MCG, is his focus this week
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Cricket: David Warner says Perth pitch, not MCG, is his focus this week

David Warner's main concern this week is the Perth pitch. Photo: AAP
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Australian openers David Warner and Joe Burns say they fully expect a good MCG pitch for the Boxing Day Test despite the weekend fiasco when Shield cricket had to be abandoned because it was too dangerous to play on.

The Boxing Day Test between Australia and New Zealand is less than three weeks away, but Warner says he has no concerns.

“I’m backing the curator (Matt Page) to do a great job and bounce back from that,” Warner said.

“It’s a bit disappointing … a first-class game had to get cancelled. But at the end of the day, curators around the country try their utmost best to get a pitch prepared as well as they can.

“There’s been a lot of talking points about the MCG in recent years (being too flat), and Page is working his backside off to get that right.

“He’s got some time up his sleeve now before the Boxing Day Test, and we’ve got a lot of faith in him to do that.

“We’ve just got to keep backing the curators. It’s a very tough job to do.”

Fellow opener Burns says he has no doubt a safe pitch will be produced for Boxing Day.

More talk, not action: A meeting between ground staff and officials at the MCG. Photo: AAP

“I think the curator – obviously, it didn’t end well this game, but I commend him for giving it a crack to try to get a result wicket down there,” Burns said.

“Obviously, the last few years, it’s been a pretty flat wicket, so you have to change something and, unfortunately this time, it didn’t work out well.

“But you’d rather see curators try to produce wickets that produce results as opposed to boring draws for fans and everyone that watches.”

Attempts to produce a more lively pitch ahead of the Boxing Day Test against New Zealand backfired spectacularly, with the MCC taking the blame for the disaster.

The MCC has been under pressure in recent years to produce a better pitch for one of the Australian summer’s showpiece events, particularly with Perth pushing hard for its chance to host the Boxing Day Test at Optus Stadium.

With the Victoria v WA Shield match suspended on Saturday, a pitch inspection early on Sunday confirmed that rolling the pitch had done little to improve the dangerous surface and the match was abandoned.

In accepting the blame, MCC chief executive Stuart Fox says an internal directive to “push the boundaries” and produce a more lively wicket led to an overcorrection and, ultimately, a dangerous surface.

WA batsmen Shaun Marsh and Marcus Stoinis both underwent concussion tests after being hit by Peter Siddle deliveries that rose sharply and unexpectedly.

Extra moisture left in the wicket had led to divots early on Saturday, which hardened under a baking sun and made the surface unplayable.

The MCG drop-in pitch has been criticised as being too docile in recent years and has received unfavourable ICC ratings that put the pressure on Page to produce a surface to match the hype around the Boxing Day fixture.

The pitch scheduled for Boxing Day has yet to be used in the Shield season.

Still, the International Cricket Council, which has been unimpressed with recent pitch conditions at the MCG, is expected to ask Cricket Australia for a “please explain”.

MCC officials were on Sunday upbeat about Boxing Day conditions, saying Page and his crew would turn out an appropriate surface for the Australia v New Zealand second Test.

“We don’t want to overcorrect and go backwards again and everyone be conservative,” Fox said on Sunday.

We’re very disappointed with what’s happened. It’s really unfortunate but player safety is paramount.’’

CA’s head of cricket operations Peter Roach has made contact with New Zealand officials to reassure them that the MCG’s Test pitch will be of a high standard.

Roach expected questions from the ICC, which he said “deserve an answer”.

“This is a setback. None of us wanted it. We’re disappointed about it, but we are confident that the Boxing Day Test will have a really good wicket,” he said.

The MCG’s contract with Cricket Australia to host the Boxing Day Test ends this summer.

Fox is adamant it should remain in Melbourne, despite the weekend’s fiasco.

“It’s probably the biggest, most iconic Test in Australia … this is its rightful home,” he said.

Marsh said he was hit by unpredictable deliveries about “four or five times” during his 57-ball innings.

After the match he and Stoinis were both cleared of concussion.

However, he feared for their safety in conditions which the 36-year-old former Test batsman had never seen in first-class cricket.

“When you see balls coming off a length and into your grill you start thinking about it,” Marsh said.

Marsh and Victoria captain Peter Handscomb backed the highly respected Page to produce a better wicket for Boxing Day.

But they agreed with Australian Cricketers’ Association chief executive Alistair Nicholson that the correct call was to abandon the Shield match.

“When player safety comes into it, there’s no debate from our point of view,” Nicholson said.

CA will attempt to reschedule the Shield match, with rules stipulating it should now be played in WA, but if it can’t be rescheduled the two teams will split the points.

-with AAP

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