Australia batsman Steve Smith has backed the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) to remain a premier Test venue following concerns over the quality of the pitch.
New Zealand play a three-match Test series against the Aussies with the first match in Perth starting Thursday. Melbourne hosts the second Test on Boxing Day and Smith is confident the match will be played on a safe pitch and hopes the venue does not lose the marquee fixture.
Recently, a Sheffield Shield match at the MCG had to be abandoned because of a dangerous pitch after several Western Australia batsmen were hit on the body by deliveries that bounced unevenly.
Cricket Australia said a different wicket will be used for the second Test against the Kiwis but added they will continue to work with curator Matt Page to ensure the pitch meets international cricket standards.
"He's a good curator and he'll be doing what he can to get us a good wicket for Boxing Day," Smith said in Perth on Monday.
"Then I guess they have another year to work on their wickets to give us an even contest for bat and ball, that's what we want to see."
The wicket at Melbourne has gone from one extreme to the other. After the 2017 Ashes Test, it received a 'poor' rating from the International Cricket Council (ICC) for being too flat and offering no help to the bowlers. Last year, the surface used for the match against India was rated 'average'.
But in an effort to inject more life into the pitch, there is now a fear of the MCG pitch veering towards the dangerous category.
Drop-in wickets are used in Melbourne, as is the case at most major venues in Australia. According to ESPNcricinfo, Melbourne authorities are yet at adopt the latest drop-in pitch systems currently in use in Adelaide and Perth.
Amid all these concerns, Smith said he would still like the Boxing Day Test to remain at the famous ground.
"I'd love for it to stay, it's part of the tradition of Australian cricket for a long time," said the 30-year-old.
"I've had some of my great memories of cricket walking out there on Boxing Day, listening to the anthems, you get kind of a shiver down your spine.
"The Boxing Day Test in Melbourne is something I look forward to every year. It's a great occasion and I would love for Melbourne to keep it."
There is a rating system in place for pitches in international cricket. A venue receive demerit points if the pitch is deemed to be ‘below average’, ‘poor’ or ‘unfit’. Grounds that accumulate five demerit points over a five-year period will be banned from hosting any international matches for 12 months, while a ground that receives 10 demerit points won't be allowed to hosts Tests and limited-overs matches for two years.