Turf manager gets a grilling from Indian press

MARK GEENTY IN AUCKLAND
Last updated 05:01 06/02/2014

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New Eden Park turf manager Blair Christiansen probably would have got off lighter if he'd decided to open the batting for New Zealand in the first cricket test.

"There is a lot of grass on this pitch," a senior Indian journalist said to him, with a wave of the finger for effect.

"Yeah, plenty for the goats to munch on," Christiansen responded with a smile.

"There is a lot of grass on this pitch," our learned scribe insisted once more, just to emphasise the point.

Confronted by around 10 reporters, mostly from India where drop-in pitches remain a mystery species, Christiansen fronted up when others may have headed for the heavy roller in the centre of Eden Park.

It wasn't quite the running of the bulls, but he had to be nimble with his answers and gave a polished performance ahead of his own test debut after succeeding long-time turf manager Mark Perham.

Will there be any assistance for the Indian spinners, one travelling journalist asked.

"Um ... spinners haven't played much of a role in many of our four-day games. They have tended not to turn," Christiansen said, trying to keep a straight face.

Ground staff lowered the 25m portable pitch into place after the Phoenix A-League football match on Saturday night.

It's the same one used for the England test in March, which was a much browner shade of emerald and ended one wicket short of a result.

It hasn't been used since and clearly received a freshen up.

Christiansen was aware of New Zealand coach Mike Hesson's very public Christmas wish for green pitches with pace and bounce for the India series, far removed from the slow, low subcontinent surfaces.

"That seems to be the flavour of the month at the moment and that's what we're aiming for. There's no denying that. Hopefully we've come to the party and provided something like that."

But he insisted there was no directive from the New Zealand team to leave more grass on it, and potentially alarm the India team as much as some of their reporters appeared to be.

"I haven't got his [Hesson's] number and I don't know if he's got mine. I try and prepare the best pitch rather than the best pitch for the home team. We've never been instructed to go down that route and I don't think it works particularly well when some games rely on the toss of the coin."

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