Pitch for India-Aus match changed to turning track on hosts’ request

India spinners Yuvraj Singh and R Ashwin demonstrate the spinners' waltz against Australia in World T20 2016 on March 27, 2016. Photo: AFP

The Indian team management and the Board are at it again. The most powerful cricket setup in the world is leaving nothing to chance in trying to control the “cricketing elements” so that the hosts finish on top against Australia and qualify for the World T20 semi-finals.

Sources in the BCCI confirmed to HT that on request of the Indian team management the pitch for Sunday’s all-important game has been changed.

“The game was scheduled to be played on a pitch which would have played similar to the one that was used for the Pakistan-Australia match. But India weren’t happy and have now requested a change. Now, the pitch that they have chosen will assist spin and maybe inconsistent bounce,” said an official in the know of developments.

Something similar happened in Nagpur in India’s first game as well which they lost to New Zealand. The pitch was changed there, too, at the behest of the team management. The move backfired as India couldn’t cope with New Zealand spinners Mitchell Santner and Ish Sodhi.

Unprecedented move

These moves are unprecedented as in an ICC tournament, the pitches are prepared and offered by an ICC-appointed curator. That is meant to be sacrosanct.

In these times when the sport is driven by economics, it is in the interest of all stakeholders to see India go deeper in the tournament. It is a no-brainer that with India advancing, the broadcasters’ revenue keeps flowing which, in turn, helps fill coffers of the boards across the world. Therefore, it’s imperative for India to win Sunday’s game and more.

From the players’ point of view too, it is crucial that India get to the last four of a tournament they haven’t won for the past nine years. Skipper MS Dhoni too is facing the prospect of a major embarrassment if India fail to make the semi-finals at home.

Till now, runs have flowed in the men’s matches at Mohali, with New Zealand scoring 180 and Australia more than 190. In fact, New Zealand women scored 177 against Ireland.

But with India, it has been a different story. At the Eden, Pakistan scored more than 200 against Bangladesh on a belter and three days later against India, struggled to 118 in 18 overs.

Same old story

Punjab Cricket Association curator and BCCI pitch committee chairman Daljit Singh refused to comment but an association source said there will be something in the pitch for the spinners.

“You have seen what happened during last year’s Test against South Africa. PCA is known for its quick wicket. But the highest total in that match was 201 by India in the first innings. Moreover, the same pitch will be used for the women’s match between India and West Indies before India take on Australia. There will definitely be some wear and tear. The pitch is likely to slow down in the evening,” a PCA official said.