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Wankhede Pitch-Change: A Look at Playing Conditions

During the recently concluded Cricket World Cup, a pitch controversy broke out, which became a subject matter of discussion between the playing teams, the cricket fraternity, and the press.

On November 15, hours before the toss, it was announced that the India vs New Zealand match would be played on pitch no. 6 instead of pitch no. 7 at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai. Subsequently, reports were alluding to a tussle between the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) independent pitch consultant, Andy Atkinson, and the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) over such pitch change.

Earlier, the rotation of pitches decided upon was 6-8-6-8-7, which was the scheme communicated to Atkinson. On account of undisclosed reasons, it was stated that the game couldn’t be played on pitch no. 7, and the same had to be changed to pitch no. 6; the said pitch was used for two previous matches (when England faced South Africa on October 21 and India played against Sri Lanka on November 2).

As the match unfolded into a high-scoring and nerve-wracking game, ultimately going in favour of India, the controversy persisted, sparking extensive debates. Let us take a look at the Rules applicable in case of a change of pitch.

Laws of Cricket

The Marylebone Cricket Club’s (MCC) Laws (Law 6) specify that the ground authority is responsible for the selection and preparation of the pitch before the match.[1]

Once the game begins, it is on the umpires to “control its use and maintenance”. It is made clear that the pitch can be changed during the match only if it is deemed by the umpires to be “dangerous or unreasonable for play to continue on it”, and both captains agree to such change. However, there is no restriction on the selection of a pitch before the match or the use of a used pitch.

Playing Conditions

In line with the Laws of Cricket, this edition’s playing conditions state that the ground authority is responsible for the selection and preparation of the pitches.  

If the on-field umpires adjudge that it is “dangerous or unreasonable for play to continue on the match pitch”, they are required to stop the game and advise the ICC Match Referee. Thereafter, the game can be resumed if the captains give their consent to do so.

In case the match is abandoned on the day of the match, efforts must be made to hold a new match with a new nomination of teams and toss, on and at the same day and venue, either on the repaired pitch or on another pitch. The ICC Match Referee and the ground authority have to ensure that the new pitch is of the required ODI standard.

Stand of International Cricket Council

Speaking to the media, an ICC spokesperson dismissed the rumours and stated, “Changes to planned pitch rotations are common towards the end of an event of this length and has already happened a couple of times. This change was made on the recommendation of the venue curator in conjunction with our host. The ICC independent pitch consultant was apprised of the change and has no reason to believe the pitch won’t play well.”

[1] https://www.lords.org/mcc/the-laws-of-cricket/the-pitch