What is meant by a drop in pitch in cricket?

The drop-in-pitches are developed off-site and transported to the venue, rather than prepared on-site. In terms of the materials used, these pitches are made using the same clay, soil, and grass similar to a standard pitch. But the construction takes place in a regulated environment before fixing into a place with cranes and can be removed once a match or tournament gets completed.

The main advantage of the drop-in-pitches is to provide a logical solution for stadiums that are short of permanent cricket facilities or have a requirement to host multiple sports tournaments. Also, these pitches don’t crack or deteriorate over a certain time, which makes them suitable for reuse. Allowing the pitches to be swapped in and out makes it possible to be used for cricket matches as well as other sports like baseball, football, rugby, hockey, and several others.

It would be interesting to find out how the drop-in pitches are prepared, their first usage, dimensions, the grounds that use such surfaces, and the downsides.

When was the first time drop-in-pitches were used?

In the 1970s, the Australian businessman Kerry Packer decided to conduct the Cricket World Series; and appointed a curator named John Maley to prepare a drop-in-pitch that was used in WACA in Perth, Australia.

Mainly, Kerry Packer decided to rent out the non-regular cricket venues to conduct the World Series competition when he wasn’t granted permission to access the traditional cricket grounds. As a result, Packer leased a few popular grounds such as  VFL Park in Melbourne, Football Park in Adelaide; Moore Park Showground in Sydney, and Gloucester Park (Perth).

Drop-in-pitches preparation

These are the main steps carried out in the preparation of a high-quality drop-in-pitch:

  1. Structure: A basic structure of a pitch is built by using a special tray system that can hold the pitch as well as make it easier for transportation to be installed at the venue.
  2. Preparation: The preparation methods are similar to traditional pitches which involve leveling the pitch, mixing the soil, and using a proper amount and type of grass suitable for a particular venue that can adapt well to the required conditions.
  3. Set-Up: Once the transportation to the venue is completed successfully, these pitches are set up using heavy-duty cranes. Before installing the drop-in-pitches at a designated spot on the field, it is important to verify if the pitch dimensions are properly cut by calculating the depth, width, and height. This helps to safely fix the pitch in a fixed place.
  4. Inspection and Maintenance: A drop in pitch requires frequent inspection and maintenance similar to the traditional pitches to keep it in optimal working condition. A few steps include watering, rolling, cutting the excess grass, and additional repairs if required.
  5. Testing: Before using the pitch in any important tournaments, it is mandatory to test the conditions. This is a basic and important step that provides a guarantee that the pitch meets the required standards. Out of several tests, a few important ones include bounce, roll, spin, and others to evaluate the quality of a pitch.

Dimensions of a drop-in-pitch

There isn’t any particular dimension fixed for a drop in pitch. However, the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) pitch which is made of black soil has a dimension of 24 meters long, 3 meters wide, and 20 centimeters deep. Similarly, the drop in wickets is being prepared to be installed at several venues across the world.

Grounds using drop-in-pitches

Most commonly, the drop-in-pitches are used in Australia and New Zealand. For instance, iconic venues such as the Melbourne Cricket Stadium (MCG); the Adelaide Oval, and the Opus Stadium in Perth use these pitches in Australia.

In the case of New Zealand, Eden Park in Auckland and Westpac Stadium in Wellington use drop-in-pitches to host multi-sports tournaments such as cricket, football, and rugby.

For example, the newly built Nassau County International Cricket Stadium in New York (USA) has used the drop-in pitches that have been prepared in Adelaide (Australia) to host these group stage matches of the continuing ICC T20 World Cup 2024:

DateMatch
June 03 (Monday)Sri Lanka vs South Africa
June 05 (Wednesday)Ireland vs India
June 07 (Friday)Canada vs Ireland
June 08 (Saturday)Netherlands vs South Africa
June 09 (Sunday)India vs Pakistan
June 10 (Monday)South Africa vs Bangladesh
June 11 (Tuesday)Pakistan vs Canada
June 12 (Wednesday)United States vs India

Drawbacks of using drop-in-pitches

Since the drop-in pitches are prepared using steel cases; they are extremely flat which produces uneven bounce and speed when compared to the traditional pitches. Especially, cricketers who are familiar with the traditional pitches wouldn’t enjoy much on such tracks. Moreover, these pitches can make the contest completely one-sided. Also, the costly expenses and transportation issues are a major concern.

Conclusion

Drop-in pitches aren’t completely artificial since they are prepared by using natural materials like clay, soil, and grass. However, they are prepared outside the stadium. As a result, few people believe that these pitches are completely artificial when compared to the conditions of traditional pitches.

Despite having certain advantages such as portability and adaptability to controlled conditions; the unpredictable nature of the surface makes the drop in pitches less preferable.

Overall, the debate between the drop-in-pitch and a conventional pitch is expected to continue for decades and every cricketer needs to adapt to this new challenge to keep themselves competitive and upgraded in the modern era of cricket.