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Opinion

India’s petulant pitch switch dirty trick tarnishes march to World Cup trophy

16th November, 2023
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16th November, 2023
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Whether it’s arrogance because they know they can get away with it or insecurity because they’re unsure if they can win the World Cup, India’s pitch switch for the semi-final against New Zealand was a low blow. 

The BCCI’s interference in what is supposed to be an ICC event has been apparent before and during the World Cup and if the host nation goes onto lift the trophy on Sunday at Ahmedabad it will be a tarnished triumph. 

Are the Indians that insecure that they needed to play silly buggers with the centre wicket to ensure the match was played on a pitch that suited India?

They were already raging hot favourites with a star-studded line-up which, on a level playing field, had too much firepower for the tradesmanlike Black Caps. 

Surely they didn’t need to resort to gamesmanship/dirty pool like this. 

They have become cricket’s classless nouveau riche, exploiting their rise in wealth to their advantage irrespective of how the rest of the countries feel or whether it’s acceptable in the mystical Spirit of Cricket ethos. 

When you bring in 80-plus percent of the game’s revenue it brings an entitlement that you in fact own the game. 

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The toothless ICC is no match for the tiger that is India. 

For its part, the ICC issued a carefully worded statement to say the late switch from the unused Pitch 7 to Pitch 6, which had already been played on twice in this tournament, “was made on the recommendation of the venue curator in conjunction with our host. The ICC independent pitch consultant (Andy Atkinson) was apprised of the change and has no reason to believe the pitch won’t play well”.

Nowhere does it say that the ICC pitch consultant wanted or recommended this change. Because that came from the BCCI meddling from the shadows. 

Unlike Australia’s tour to India at the start of the year, the World Cup pitches have not been much of a talking point. 

For the most part they’ve been quality wickets which have probably favoured bat over ball a little too much but they haven’t been the raging turners that India trot out for bilateral series when they hold a decided spin advantage. 

The Indore surface for what turned out to be a three-day Test during India’s retention of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy was rightly categorised as poor by the ICC match referee. 

A poor rating by itself barely means much anyway and it holds even less water when the BCCI then throws a tantrum and the rating gets upgraded to below average. 

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MUMBAI, INDIA - NOVEMBER 14: Rohit Sharma of India inspects the pitch during a India training session at the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup India 2023 at Wankhede Stadium on November 14, 2023 in Mumbai, India. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

Indian skipper Rohit Sharma inspects the pitch at Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

Seam has been more effective than spin at this World Cup with eight of the top 11 wicket-takers being pace bowlers. 

Without delving too deeply into the history of British imperialism and its complicated roots in the subcontinent, India have been well within their rights to flex their muscles over the past couple of decades after not only stepping out of England’s shadow as the epicentre of world cricket but towering over everyone else. 

The meek have inherited the cricket earth. But the oppressed have become the schoolyard bully. 

And the  continued rise of the IPL means that financial and boardroom clout is only going to magnify in the coming years and decades. 

For many of the head honchos at the BCCI, the game of cricket seems merely the means to an end of wielding more power. 

MUMBAI, INDIA - NOVEMBER 15: Virat Kohli of India celebrates after scoring a century, overtaking Sachin Tendulkar for the all time most ODI centuries during the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup India 2023 Semi Final match between India and New Zealand at Wankhede Stadium on November 15, 2023 in Mumbai, India. (Photo by Alex Davidson-ICC/ICC via Getty Images)

Virat Kohli celebrates after scoring his century, overtaking Sachin Tendulkar. (Photo by Alex Davidson-ICC/ICC via Getty Images)

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They need to heed the words of Sir Donald Bradman, who even though he was feted like a god for his record-breaking deeds on the field, displayed a humility which is sadly lacking from the game’s administrators nearly a century after he made his Test debut. 

“We are all custodians of the game of cricket. It is the responsibility of all those that play the game to leave the game in a better state than when they first became involved.”

India are kidding themselves if they think that tactics like switching pitches to suit their team is just a case of exploiting their “home-ground advantage”.  

No one will be surprised if they try a similar tactic in Sunday’s final at Ahmedabad against Australia but nobody will think it is fair either. 

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