Cricket World Cup 2023: What we know about the Wankhede pitch controversy

Report claimed that the Indian cricket board changed the pitch without obtaining permission from designated officials of the International Cricket Council

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India's captain Rohit Sharma inspects the pitch. — PTI
India's captain Rohit Sharma inspects the pitch. — PTI

Published: Wed 15 Nov 2023, 7:15 PM

Last updated: Thu 16 Nov 2023, 10:55 AM

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) found itself in a tricky situation ahead of the first ODI World Cup semi-final between India and New Zealand. It all started after a report claimed that the Indian cricket board changed the pitch at Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium without obtaining permission from designated officials of the International Cricket Council (ICC).

According to a Daily Mail report, Andy Atkinson, who is ICC’s pitch consultant in the tournament, was the first to bring the matter to light. Atkinson initially chose an unused surface for the semifinal, but the Indian board allegedly asked Wankhede curators to host the match on a used pitch, which would be a bit slow and come in handy for spinners, the report claimed.

The report said that the wicket picked for the first World Cup semis has already been used twice in the tournament.

Atkinson sends email to ICC

Atkinson reportedly sent an e-mail to the ICC, clearing his instance on the matter. “As a result of these actions, one must speculate if this will be the first ever (World Cup) final to have a pitch which has been specifically chosen and prepared to their stipulation at the request of the team management and/or the hierarchy of the home nation board. Or will it be selected or prepared without favouritism for either of the sides competing in the match in the usual manner, and unquestionably because it is the usual pitch for the occasion?” Atkinson wrote in the mail, as quoted by the Daily Mail.

BCCI refutes claims

Meanwhile, a BCCI spokesperson has refuted the claims. “The ICC independent pitch consultant works with the host and venues on their proposed pitch allocations, and this process is ongoing throughout an event of this length and nature,” the official was quoted as saying by Daily Mail.

Mumbai Cricket Association reacts

An Indian Express report claimed that the Indian team management had asked Wankhede curators to remove the grass on the playing surface. A Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA) source told the daily that the home team was adamant about getting a slow track.

“It won’t be a turner but the team had asked for a slow pitch. It was the main reason we shaved off the grass,” the source said.

https://indianexpress.com/article/sports/cricket-world-cup/cricket-world-cup-slow-pitch-expected-for-wankhede-semifinal-on-team-indias-insistence-9026850/

‘It’s nothing new’

An ICC spokesperson told Sportstar that changing a designated pitch is not a new thing at international events. “It has already happened a couple of times. This change was made on the recommendation of the venue curator in conjunction with our host,” the spokesperson explained.

https://sportstar.thehindu.com/cricket/icc-cricket-world-cup/odi-world-cup-2023-wankhede-pitch-change-controversy-the-icc-independent-pitch-consultant-was-apprised-of-the-change/article67535540.ece

Cricket fraternity reacts

Former English captain Michael Vaughan has reacted to the controversy. In a post on X, Vaughan wrote, “A World Cup semi should be played on a fresh pitch. It’s as simple as that.”

Ex-Australian head coach Darren Lehmann said, “Fresh pitch for ICC events is a must. Not even a question, just should happen.”

Australian captain Pat Cummins was asked about his view on the matter during a press conference before his team’s semi-final against South Africa on Thursday. Showing his faith in the ICC, Cummins said, “Yeah, I saw the report. Obviously, ICC has an independent pitch curator who manages that so I'm sure they are all over making sure it's fair for both teams.”

Indian cricket great Sunil Gavaskar said whichever pitch would be finalised for the semi-final, essentially both India and New Zealand would play on the same surface. “Yes, there will be one which might have a little bit of spin, no question about it. But the Mumbai pitch is generally very good for batting, so I don't think there should be too much of an issue. With the kind of bowling that we have, bowlers who have bowled superbly, whether they are bowling first or second, I don't think the pitch would be too much of an issue at all,” Gavaskar said during an interaction with India Today.

India’s innings

The pitch at Wankhede, however, did not look slow during India’s batting in the first innings of the semi-final. After winning the toss, the Indian batters once again appeared at their devastating best. They have posted a mammoth 398 runs on the board in 50 overs. Virat Kohli scripted history by becoming the first man to score 50 ODI centuries.

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