Is women’s cricket pitch smaller?

If you read the media coverage of the India-Bhutan series, the debate is framed around the fact that the new pitch is smaller. It seems that the debate started when the BCCI sent out news briefs to all the states (the BCCI can choose whether its team is allowed to use a new or a similar version of the surface), and found that only 22% of them used new. As a matter of fact, less than half that figure of the states that didn’t use the new pitch were using the same pitch that had been used in the previous three Tests. The ground of cricket is a complex one, not least because of the fact that the ball is constantly in flux. In international sport, all the conditions need to be kept in balance, and a perfect pitch is always an impossible one. If the pitch is too small, too cold, too hot, too soft, too hard, it can be a disaster for the players, who can be at risk in some instances.

There is also the fact that the length of a ground also affects the quality of cricket. The larger a ground, the more cricket balls will be required to be hit in an attempt to break a batsman in the shorter, hotter conditions of the Indian summer. It would appear that, with the new pitch, India are attempting to make cricket a game of attrition by changing its size and temperature, or at least making it difficult for batsmen to bowl in that way.

For example:

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A team bowling at a new pitch

The ball was harder because the ground was smaller

A team bowling at a new pitch

The ball was more soft because the ground temperature was lower

Both teams were making the ball harder to hit because of the new pitch. The batsmen were facing a greater amount of bowling than when bowling on the old pitch, and as a consequence needed to swing to get a good swing-rate. The result was less swing-rate, less ball-volatility for the batsmen, and less of a game like cricket in which batsmen are trying to score runs at an early stage in the innings before the middle overs have started. The change in field dimensions was more pronounced on the new pitch — in fact, the width of the field was smaller at this point.

So what does all this tell us?

First, this is certainly not the first series of this sort in which the pitch has not stayed on the same side of the wicket for a