In a surprising turn of events, a controversy has erupted over the pitch selection for the first semifinal between India and New Zealand at the Wankhede Stadium. Reports suggest that the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and the Indian team management, led by Rahul Dravid, orchestrated a last-minute change in the pitch, deviating from the originally scheduled fresh wicket to an adjacent one used in previous matches.
The International Cricket Council (ICC) addressed the situation, stating that alterations to planned pitch rotations are not uncommon towards the end of a lengthy event like the World Cup. The change was reportedly made based on the recommendation of the venue curator and in consultation with the ICC’s independent pitch consultant, Andy Atkinson. The ICC has expressed confidence that the adjusted pitch will play well.
Interestingly, this decision has raised questions about the influence of host nations on pitch selections during global events. The controversy echoes a similar instance during the 2019 World Cup, where some pointed out the appointment of two English umpires for the semifinal between India and New Zealand, a match where marginal decisions allegedly went against the hosts.
The clause 6.3 of the Playing Conditions for the World Cup specifies that the ‘Ground Authority shall be responsible for the selection and preparation of the pitch.’ In this case, the Mumbai Cricket Association holds this responsibility, working in collaboration with the ICC’s pitch consultant, Atkinson. The reported frustration of Atkinson, as leaked in an email, adds an intriguing layer to the situation, suggesting potential interference in pitch preparation based on team management requests.
Despite the controversy, the pitch remains the same for both teams, setting the stage for an intense battle between India and New Zealand in the highly anticipated semifinal clash. The outcome of the match will undoubtedly play a pivotal role in determining whether the decision to alter the pitch becomes a footnote or a significant talking point in the context of the 2023 ODI World Cup.