The pitches used for the knockouts games in the recently concluded ICC ODI World Cup sparked controversy when The Daily Mail reported the wicket for India’s semifinal against New Zealand at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai was changed at the eleventh hour.
The report claimed ICC’s independent pitch consultant Andy Atkinson was not informed in advance about the change thus flouting the tournament’s protocol.
“Pitches at ICC events are prepared under the supervision of the governing body’s consultant, Andy Atkinson, who agrees in advance with the home board which of the numbered strips on the square will be used for each game. But Mail Sport has learned that the agreement has been ignored as the tournament reaches its climax, with the semifinal set to take place on a pitch that has already been used twice - potentially assisting India’s world-class spinners,” the report read.
The governing body later clarified in a statement: “The ICC independent pitch consultant was apprised of the change and has no reason to believe the pitch won’t play well.”
Dhiraj Parsana, the former pitch curator of the Narendra Modi Stadium, erstwhile known as Motera Stadium, said preparing the wicket to suit the home team is a common practice across the globe.
“It all started from around 2008 to 2010 when home advantage became popular. It is a practice all over the world now. Australia or England, wherever you play, they prepare the pitch according to the home team’s strength. It is quite open, everyone knows,” said Parsana.
“For the first 15 years [of my tenure], only Test matches used to be played. So, those days we made sure the pitch lasted for the duration of the match. Nothing else, no pressure,” added Parsana who worked with the Gujarat Cricket Association from 1982 to 2018.
The surface used for the final between India and Australia at the Narendra Modi Stadium also became a talking point after India struggled to score in sluggish conditions. The pitch played better under the lights, aiding Australia’s pursuit of 241 runs.
“I would have gone for a red soil pitch for this match. Red soil has less clay and seal content and more coarse sand. It holds the surface along with a grass covering and offers even bounce - for spinners and pacers alike,” said Parsana.
The final was played on a black soil pitch, the same one used for India’s league stage match against Pakistan.
Parsana made headlines during South Africa’s tour of India in 2008 when he refused to remove grass off the pitch during a Test, resulting in the home team folding for 76 runs inside the first session and eventually losing the game by an innings.
“Groundsmen are, at the end of the day, groundsmen. We cannot keep everyone happy. Certain preparations need to be done to make sure the pitch lasts the duration of the match, be it a One-Day or Test. I heard that people were not happy with it. Anil Kumble was the captain of that team. But it was how they [South Africa] bowled. They made use of the morning session. So, I cannot help that,” said Parsana.
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