When we arrived at the Trelawny stadium in Jamaica earlier this week I flippantly described the clay brown pitch as an ice skating rink.
There’s not a blade of grass anywhere to be seen and I suppose it’s a bit like plasticine. They wet it up at night, roll it and it’s got a sheen on it like a skating rink. You can even see yourself in it.
I have not seen anything like these pitches anywhere else in the world. They’re even more devoid of grass than India , where at least there is a thin cover ing of grass to give it some pace.
While the pitch conditions for our two warm-up matches in Trelawny are exaggerated in terms of the amount of turn and bounce compared with the Test venues, it’s great practice and there’s nothing like facing the toughest conditions to modify your technique.
In the first two-day match, off-spinner Mark Craig was spot on with his first few overs on debut and deserved his trio of wickets, while paceman Neil Wagner’s five for 38 will give him a lot of confidence considering the unfavourable conditions for seamers.
In the second warm-up match starting tomorrow, there’ll need to be a step up with bowlers tackling three to four spells each, and batsmen looking to be out in the middle for extended periods of time.
Today Ross Taylor and Tim Southee join the squad from the Indian Premier League which just leaves our skipper to come. Having players join the group at different times is something we’ve become accustomed to with the different formats of the game these days.
The first warm-up match was all about ensuring the guys who haven’t played cricket recently got some time out in the middle. For those coming from the IPL it’s not like they’ve been on holiday. They’ve been immersed in cricket for a long time so the transition won’t be as difficult.
It’s been great to have new batting coach Craig McMillan and our spin specialist Paul Wiseman join the squad this week. Craig’s starting to familiarise himself with the batsmen and build those relationships that are a critical part of coaching.
Lastly, Jamaica is a great spot and everyone’s loving having us here. The hardest bit is being at a resort full of holidaymakers who are all swimming up to the pool bar. The staff simply can’t understand that when we order a diet coke we don’t want a bit of spice in it.