A drop-in pitch in cricket is an age-old practice of preparing the pitch for a match away from the designated venue and then ‘dropping in’ in the middle for a scheduled match.
Such a pitch might take several years to get prepared and hence, the ground staff is expected to look after it with immense care so that it sustains for a few seasons before it finally deteriorates and is discarded.
When did the drop-in pitch come into existence?
The first known use of drop-in pitches was in the 1970s, initially developed by Western Australia Cricket Association (WACA) curator John Maley for use in the World Series Cricket matches, set up in the 1970s by Australian businessman Kerry Packer.
How are drop-in pitches prepared?
The drop-in pitches are prepared in steel frames.
In the case of drop-in pitches, the curators have the liberty to curate the pitches as per the needs. However, it needs a deep understanding and a calculated combination of soil, grass and clay for the desired output.
One of the downsides of these pitches is that they are observed to be too flat at times and did not have the natural qualities of a traditional pitch, which would in turn make the format not live up to the expectations.
Why and how are drop-in pitches used?
The drop-in pitches are primarily used at stadiums and venues which are designed to host multiple sports other than cricket.
For instance, there are multiple stadiums in Australia and New Zealand that not only host cricket but stage matches of sports like rugby, football and hockey.
In such cases, drop-in pitches are used during the cricketing season. Once the match/season is over, the pitches are moved to a site where they are preserved and worked on for the next use.
To switch between cricket and football, the cricket pitch tray is swapped for a tray holding football-growing turf.
The field can be used immediately after the trays are exchanged. Trays that are not being used are maintained and prepared in a nursery site or a greenhouse. The wickets are moved with the machine which minimises damage to the outfield.
Which grounds are known to use drop-in pitches?
In New Zealand, Eden Park in Auckland and Westpac Stadium in Wellington are known to use portable pitches as they host football and rugby matches, too, apart from cricket.
As far as Australia is concerned, the drop-in pitches are used at Melbourne Cricket Ground, the Optus Stadium in Perth and Adelaide Oval among other major venues.
Lately, the pitches in Pakistan have come under scrutiny for their poor quality and hence the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) have proposed for drop-in pitches to be used at two venues to begin with, namely Karachi and Lahore.
The agreement was signed in 2021 and the process for the installation of these pitches is expected to be completed in 2022.
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