Wankhede ‘Pitch Swap Controversy’ Strikes World Cup. Sunil Gavaskar, Michael Vaughan React

Ahead of the Cricket World Cup 2023 semi-final between New Zealand and India, a controversy erupted over allegations of a last-minute change in pitch on the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI)’s instance. A report claimed that the Indian board decided to go with ‘used pitch’ for the semi-final encounter, while a ‘fresh pitch’ was supposed to be put into play earlier. Multiple former cricketers have reacted to the story, giving varied views on the matter.

According to a Daily Mail report, the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) pitch consultant, Andy Atkinson, had initially stamped an unused surface to be used for the semi-final at Wankhede but the decision was later changed to a used surface. The report claimed that the pitch which would be in play on Wednesday, has already been used twice.

Atkinson even wrote an e-mail to the International Cricket Council, the report claimed. The purported e-mail, according to the Daily Mail, read: “As a result of these actions, one must speculate if this will be the first ever (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. 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?”

The report also quoted a BCCI official as saying: “The ICC independent pitch consultant works with the host and venues on their proposed pitch allocations, and this process is ongoing throughout an event of this length and nature.”

A report in the Indian Express also stated that the BCCI insisted on a ‘slow pitch’ for the semi-final against New Zealand.

Gavaskar, Vaughan React To Pitch Change Controversy

Indian cricket great Sunil Gavaskar, reacting to the controversy, said: “The pitch is there for all the teams, so I don’t think there should be too much discussion on what this pitch will do or not do. I do believe that this Indian team is perfectly capable of handling any kind of surface. Having you seen that in the tournament so far. And if it’s a drier pitch, which is likely to be the case simply because the rains have gone. So there will be there is no hint of any moisture.”

“Yes, there will be one which there might be just a little bit of spin, no question about it. But the Mumbai pitch is generally very good for bating, so I don’t think there should be too much of an issue. With the kind of bowling that we have, bowlers who have bowled superbly, whether they are bowling first or second, I don’t think the pitch would be too much of an issue at all.”

“I think this is typically, you know, on the eve of the match when you have nothing to write about and then, you know, you try to say something because you want to fill in your columns, you want to talk about pitches and stuff like that. To me, it doesn’t make a difference. If the pitch changes after the toss, they certainly have a conversation. But if the pitch is the same before the toss, I don’t think any noise should be made at all,” said Gavaskar on India Today.

Former England captain Michael Vaughan also reacted to the controversy, suggesting a fresh pitch should be used for the semi-final.

“A World Cup semi should be played on a fresh pitch .. It’s as simple as that ..” posted Vaughan on X (formerly Twitter).

It also has to be noted that the New Zealand has not objected to the alleged ‘pitch change’ yet. Newsbust India tried getting a comment on the matter from the BCCI. A response is awaited.

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