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By Editor in on 25 Jun 2008
GABBA authorities have moved to hose down concerns over the cricket ground's surface before Saturday night's AFL clash between Brisbane Lions and Adelaide.
Both the Lions and the Crows have voiced their fears over the centre-wicket area which Brisbane coach Leigh Matthews and his players have described as "concrete". With the club demanding a drop-in pitch, Matthews has warned Stadiums Queensland it faces a major lawsuit if it continues to ignore the dangers of the ground.
The Lions have the support of the AFL with chief executive Andrew Demetriou admitting the league had unsuccessfully attempted to persuade SQ to move to a drop-in wicket, like the MCG's. "In the ideal world it's better what we've got at the MCG, you play football in football season and hopefully you can put in drop-in pitches in cricket season," he has said.
Cricket Australia and Queensland Cricket have been vocal about the retention of the pitch area and were relieved when the MSFA investigation indicated a drop-in wicket was an unpalatable option. Test captain Ricky Ponting has also called for grounds to retain their unique character while Cricket Victoria have been unhappy with the standard of the MCG.
Queensland Cricket boss Graham Dixon said the Gabba's reputation for providing one of the best wickets in world cricket would be endangered by a drop-in.
But SQ, which administers the Gabba, declared the ground met the standards set by the AFL and staff wouldn't alter the way it was prepared. A spokesperson for SQ said the body took the complaints seriously but highlighted the fact the Gabba was a multi-use venue hosting up to 13 AFL matches and more than 30 days of cricket a year.
"The Gabba playing surface meets the standards set by the AFL prior to each game,'' the spokesperson said. "These standards include parameters relating to the hardness of the wicket area."Ground staff take measurements to record the hardness of the wicket area in the centre of the field and other areas around the ground to ensure the playing surface meets the standards set by the AFL prior to each game being played. "In addition, the AFL also inspects the field prior to each game to ensure the field is in a suitable condition to play AFL on."
The Gabba ground staff completes watering the surface on the eve of the match to ensure it's not slippery in the game. But Lions co-captain Luke Power complained the surface was too hard in day games and slippery at night.
Cricket Australia general manager cricket Michael Brown said: "People need to understand the value of that Gabba wicket to cricket. Players and spectators don't want a sameness of wickets around the country."
But Brown said it was the hardest ground in the AFL, causing a knee injury to midfielder Scott Harding last week, and added he had attempted to stay off it, blaming it for his osteitis pubis problems in 2005.
"The Gabba pitch is the one black mark on what is otherwise a sensational venue and the administrative indifference towards what should be a health and safety obligation is beyond a joke," Brown said in his News Ltd column on Friday.
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