'How did Salgaonkar let it slip?'

Two curators, brains behind many international matches in the recent past, discuss how they protect their baby — the pitch.

The Pandurang Salgaonkar alleged pitch-fixing incident, ahead of the second ODI between India and New Zealand in Pune on Wednesday, led to a string of speculations.   -  AFP

The Pandurang Salgaonkar alleged pitch-fixing incident, ahead of the second ODI between India and New Zealand in Pune on Wednesday, led to a string of speculations. It is debatable whether he wanted to sell the pitch or shoo away the masked bookies, knowing who they were; but it is true that a group of strangers had access to the wicket — a violation of the ICC and BCCI laws.

Read: Pay the curator well, says Venkat Sundaram

Sportstar spoke to a couple of curators to understand how they protect their wicket from a glitch.

“There are a lot of instructions from the BCCI and the ICC before international matches. It is up to the individual to maintain the rules and I feel one should be honest in his job. Wherever you work, no matter what your profession is, if you are honest, there is a different reward and respect for that,” says Sujan Mukherjee, the Eden Gardens curator.

Groundsmen and players

Mukherjee, who is close to former India cricketer Sourav Ganguly — the current president of the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) — couldn’t understand how Salgaonkar let it slip. “I couldn’t figure the head or tail of the Pune pitch issue. I believe if the board has given you a particular job, you should respect and preserve that.”

“Leave alone match days, we never have strangers invading the pitch on normal days too. It is only me, the groundsmen and at times, the CAB president who inspect the wicket.

"Even the CAB members don’t walk into the park. During tournaments, the players, of course, have access. Even Avishek Dalmiya (CAB joint secretary) doesn’t walk into the ground without asking me,” he added.

Mukherjee reiterated that Salgaonkar crushed his self-esteem by allowing fringe elements. “I don’t even want to understand or know about such monetary inclinations. It is unfortunate that it happened. He just destroyed his self-esteem. I don’t talk to all reporters, I know the people I talk to.”

Of money and honey

Former BCCI pitch committee chairman, Venkat Sundaram, told Sportstar that curators and groundsmen become easy targets for they aren’t well paid. But Mukherjee is of the opinion that there wouldn’t be successful matches if the groundsmen were ill-treated.

“If a person is not happy in his life, he won’t be good at his job. When you have the basic necessities in place, you are in a good space and it reflects. Pitch is a team effort,” he added.

Another veteran curator, who refused to be named, was shocked to hear that Salgaonkar had broken the thumb rule of pitch grammar. “How can somebody, who is not a player or coach, come and inspect the wicket?"

“When I worked with my association, which hosted many BCCI matches, I never allowed outsiders. It was limited to players and that too, only captains and coaches. I know Salgaonkar personally. He was a cricketer and a good fast bowler for Maharashtra. I don’t know why he would want money. Since he played Ranji Trophy, he gets pension from the BCCI. I read somewhere that he used to draw a salary of Rs 65,000 per month. It is not about money, there must be something else,” revealed the veteran, who retired a few years ago.

When this reporter spoke to a BCCI official, he passed the question saying, “There aren’t match-to-match instructions to curators. There is a standard procedure through which all matches are held.”

Quite a bouncy deck, isn’t it?