India accused of pitch switching ahead of World Cup semi-finals: report

India is set to face New Zealand in the Cricket World Cup semi-final on Wednesday at Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai

India accused of pitch switching ahead of World Cup semi-finals: report PHOTO: AFP

India is set to face New Zealand in the Cricket World Cup semi-final on Wednesday, and accusations have arisen that the Indian board has changed the pitch in Mumbai without the ICC's approval. The alleged switch involves using a pitch that has already been used twice, potentially benefiting India's spinners in their quest to reach the final.

The preparation of pitches at ICC events typically involves consultation with the governing body's consultant, Andy Atkinson, who collaborates with the home board to determine which strips on the square will be utilized for each game. However, reports by ‘The Daily Mail’ suggest that this agreement has been disregarded as the tournament approaches its climax.

The designated pitch for the Mumbai semi-final was supposed to be No 7, a fresh surface unused in the venue's previous group matches. However, a WhatsApp message circulated on Tuesday indicated that the semi-final had been moved to pitch No 6, which had already hosted games between England and South Africa, as well as India and Sri Lanka.

It also came to light that the pitch for the most anticipated World Cup game between Pakistan-India was also changed.

"The matter was complicated by the fact that he was told by the ICC's senior events manager at the venue that the India v Pakistan game there on October 14 took place on pitch No 7, as per the schedule, when it actually took place on pitch No 5," the Daily Mail report said.

Concerns have also been raised about potential changes for the final in Ahmedabad, where India or New Zealand will meet Australia or South Africa. Atkinson, frustrated by the lack of clarity on final preparations, flew to Ahmedabad, suggesting that changes had been made without proper notice or forewarning in previous matches.

Atkinson's recommendation for the final is to use pitch No 5, which has been used only once. However, there is speculation that pitch No 6, used twice, could be chosen, raising questions about favoritism. The BCCI attributed the changes to the Mumbai Cricket Association, while the MCA claimed to be acting under instructions from the BCCI and the Indian team management.

In an email, Atkinson expressed concern about whether this would be the first ICC Cricket World Cup final with a pitch chosen and prepared at the request of the team management or the home nation board hierarchy, raising questions about fairness in pitch selection.

“As a result of these actions, one must speculate if this will be the first ever ICC CWC [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.

“Or will it be selected or prepared without favouritism 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 concluded.