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Friday, December 01, 2023  
16 Jumada Al-Awwal 1445  

IndvsNZ: Controversy hits cricket as India faces accusations for illegally switching pitch ahead of semi-final

Playing on a 'used surface' could end up favouring India's spinners
Rohit Sharma inspects the pitch ahead of India’s semi-final. Photo via ICC.
Rohit Sharma inspects the pitch ahead of India’s semi-final. Photo via ICC.

In a surprising controversy just a day before India and New Zealand face off in the semi-final of the 2023 ODI World Cup, the hosts have been accused of switching the pitch the match is supposed to be played on without the permission of the International Cricket Council.

A report in a British publication said that ICC’s pitch consultant, Andy Atkinson, usually oversees the choice of which surface in any ground is to be used for a contest. The report added that the decision is taken well in advance.

It had been decided that Wankhede’s pitch no. 7 would be used for the tournament’s semi-final and would be kept unused till that point in the tournament. The conditions were presumably changed to favour India’s bowling.

However, ICC officials found out through a message on WhatsApp that pitch no. 6 had instead been selected for the match. The playing surface has already been used twice in the tournament.

The pitch has hosted England vs South Africa and India vs Sri Lanka.

A surface that has already been used could bring India’s spin bowlers into a greater role than one they would have on an unused surface.

In addition, the pitch consultant also learnt that the pitch for the final in Ahmedabad’s Narendra Modi stadium could also be switched to an already used surface to suit India’s spinners.

Atkinson was told there was an unspecified problem with pitch no. 7 but could not get a clear answer despite multiple requests. He then flew to Ahmedabad and found that multiple changes had been made to the tournament’s pitch choices, the report said.

The pitch used in the India vs Pakistan game on October 14 was also changed from the one originally decided upon. ICC was told the match happened on pitch no 7 of the Modi stadium when it had actually been played on pitch no 5.

“As a result of these actions, one must speculate if this will be the first ever ICC CWC 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,” Atkinson wrote in an email.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India says that the decisions to switch pitches were taken by the local cricket association. However, the association has pointed to pressure from the BCCI.

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