Time to start asking a few questions on what I think of as 'tough' topics: ones that are probably complex and subtle (among other things). Later I'll get to bowling and batting, but let's start with pitches.
From watching a lot of cricket lately, and from one day of actually playing it, however poorly, and seeing the difference between hardened tennis ball and leather ball bounces on that particular unprepared pitch, it is clear that the condition of the pitch is critical to any cricket match. But understanding what varies among pitches is still quite a mystery to me. I understand hardness matters, and evenness, cracks, scuffs, moisture, etc., but the 'essence' of each pitch I have no clue of evaluating. I have noticed that in most countries the pitches are pure grey (or slightly brownish), except in England where they are sometimes actually (pale) green. They grey ones occasionally have a few tiny clumps of grass on them, but they are just as grey and are flattened as well, while the green pitches in England, when they show up (typically briefly it seems to me) have actual growing grass, until a day or so's worth of cricket has been played.
Some televised cricket matches show at the start a close up slow camera view going down the whole pitch so you can see just what it looks like. Can one actually evaluate the pitch just from video of it? Can batsmen and bowlers evaluate the pitch before some balls have actually been delivered? What makes a pitch good for batsmen? for bowlers? and does it depend on the type of batsman or bowler? Spinners in particular seem to need a particular type of pitch to do well, according to commentaries I've heard, but I don't understand exactly what they need.
Also, teams (especially counties it seems) get fined or penalized fairly often it seems for having poor pitches. Just how hard is it to maintain a good pitch. Is it really the county's fault when this happens?
What type of pitches are best for red balls? for white? for hardened tennis balls?
And how do mats compare to 'real' pitches? Do the mats that cost 800-1000 pounds perform that much better than those that cost 100-200?
Well, lots of questions. And many of them may not have been asked properly. But any help in getting a better understanding of pitches would be appreciated. And if that means referencing old threads, blogs, or special websites, that will be great too. Thanks in advance!