Cricket

Buttler hits the pitch for ‘poor’ Dharamshala and urges players to be careful in the deep

“You want to dive through a row of houses to save the run. “It’s obviously not ideal considering the surface and pitch.”

Matt Roller

Dharamshala’s sandy pitch made headlines for all the wrong reasons ICC via Getty Images

Jos Buttler described Dharamshala’s sandy pitch as “poor” and questioned the suitability of the facility for hosting World Cup matches after urging his England players to be careful when diving into the depths against Bangladesh.

The outfield was rated “average” by the umpires in Bangladesh’s six-wicket win over Afghanistan on Saturday, despite its patchy appearance and sandy surface, which contributed to Mujeeb Ur Rahman’s knee digging into the surface while diving to save a boundary.

Jonathan Trott, Afghanistan’s coach, said Mujeeb was “lucky” to avoid serious injury and had contacted the English players to warn them about the condition of the pitch. However, the ICC said that independent pitch consultant Andy Atkinson had inspected the pitch on Sunday and was “comfortable” with it, as was match referee Javagal Srinath.

England trained at the picturesque HPCA Stadium on Sunday afternoon and Monday morning and Buttler, the team captain, admitted he had concerns about the pitch. “I think it’s weak,” he said. “I think any time you talk about diving carefully or being careful when fielding, it goes against everything you want to be as a team.

“You want to dive through a row of houses to save the run. This is obviously not ideal considering the surface and pitch. But we won’t use that as an excuse. We will adapt to this. But certainly if you feel like you have to hold back, that’s not where you want to be as a team, as a player or in a World Cup match.

Rangana Herath, Bangladesh’s bowling coach, said the team management had not given any specific instructions to the fielders not to dive. “We will not limit anything to give 100%,” he said. “We will tell them to do their best.” On the field, he said: “If it’s good for playing international cricket, I’m happy with it.”

Asked if he was happy the match was going on, Buttler told the BBC: “The powers they have are comfortable. The only thing I would ask is that if you tell players not to dive and so on, does that undermine the integrity of the match? The worst-case scenario is that something bad happens, but we’re keeping our fingers crossed that doesn’t happen for both teams.

Mujeeb Ur Rahman’s knee got stuck while diving on Dharamshala’s sandy pitch ICC/Getty Images

The Test match between India and Australia was moved from Dharamshala earlier this year at short notice due to the condition of the pitch, although two IPL matches were played at the stadium shortly afterwards. Buttler took part in one of them and said, “The fielding is different from when we played here in the IPL.”

Buttler said his players would have to be careful in the deep, “and that’s not something you want to do when playing for your country.” He added: “You want to put your body at risk, save every run and have confidence on the field. It’s not as good as it could be or should be.

“It’s natural that you want to act instinctively on the pitch: if you see the ball, you want to rush towards it. Honestly, it’s special and I know it will be the same for both teams. But if you have to hold yourself back, you shouldn’t feel this way. Hopefully, fingers crossed that no one on either side suffers an unfortunate injury.

English sailors tested the run-up areas during Monday’s training session. “It’s just gaining that level of trust,” Buttler explained. “When guys are attacking and trying to bowl fast, you need that confidence in the run-up. It will probably take the boys a few balls to get used to it, but they are professionals and they will adapt.”

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98

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