In the lead-up to the highly anticipated semifinal clash between India and New Zealand in the ongoing ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023, a huge controversy has erupted. The first semifinal of the 13th edition of the World Cup is scheduled to take place at the iconic Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai on Wednesday (November 15). India, who finished at the top of the points table in the league stage, will lock horns against fourth-placed New Zealand for a place in the final.
However, a few hours before the scheduled start of the game, the pitch has become a major talking point. After the venue for India’s semifinal clash was confirmed, reports stated that the hosts had asked for a slow pitch to be prepared. And now it is reported that the Indian officials have switched the pitch for the all-important clash against the Black Caps.
Pitch changed ahead of India vs New Zealand semifinal:
As per the rules, the pitches during an ICC competition are prepared under the supervision of the governing body’s consultant. The apex body of the game agrees in advance on the surface to be used. However, the Daily Mail has reported that the agreement has been ignored by the Indian officials.
ICC consultant Andy Atkinson and the BCCI had already reached an agreement regarding the pitch for the semifinal. The concerned parties had selected an unused surface for the semifinal between India and New Zealand. However, the match is now all set to be played on a surface that has already been used twice in the course of the tournament.
The used surface is likely to assist India’s potent spin attack. The report further stated that A WhatsApp message was sent to 50 Indian and ICC officials, confirming the semifinal would not be played on pitch No. 7, but No 6. The No 6 pitch had earlier hosted the England-South Africa and India-Sri Lanka league games. The Indian officials reportedly told Atkinson that there was an unspecified problem with the No 7 surface.
ICC consultant miffed at BCCI:
The British news outlet also reported that there are also concerns regarding the pitch to be used for the final. The match is scheduled to take place at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad on November 19. The pitch for the final could be changed unilaterally like it was done during the league stage.
While the tournament opener between England and New Zealand was played on the pre-selected surface, none of the next three fixtures at the venue included the huge India-Pakistan clash. Miffed with the behavior of the Indian officials, Atkinson had expressed his frustration in an email to his ICC bosses. He reportedly stated that changes were being made “without proper notice or forewarning”.
The news outlet also reported Atkinson had recommended the final be played on pitch No. 5, which has been used just once. However, the ICC consultant recently learned that the final would in fact be played on No 6, which has been used twice and would likely generate more spin. When Atkinson questioned the officials, the BCCI and Gujarat Cricket Association started pointing fingers at each other.
“As a result of these actions, one must speculate if this will be the first ever [Cricket 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,” Atkinson wrote in his email.
“Or will it be selected or prepared without favoritism for either of the sides competing in the match in the usual manner, and unquestionably because it is the usual pitch for the occasion?” he added.