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ICC event pitches come under the supervision of the governing body’s consultant, Essex-born Andy Atkinson, who is credited as having a “greater knowledge of cricket pitches around the world than anybody else on the planet.”
Atkinson comes to an agreement with the home cricket board as to which of the numbered pitches on the square are to be used in each game.
In a shocking revelation, Australian media are reporting that the agreement has been ignored on the eve of the tournament’s climax. The pitch scheduled to be used in the first semi-final in Mumbai has already been used twice, with the narrative it could assist India’s strong spin bowling lineup as they seek a fourth World Cup final appearance at their home tournament.
Wankehde Stadium plays host to the first semi-final and the pitch that was agreed to be used No 7 - a fresh and unused wicket so far this World Cup.
However, a WhatsApp message has been circulated to a group of more than 50 BBCI and ICC officials that confirms the first semi-final will be played on pitch No 6 - a pitch that has already staged two matches this tournament.
It is understood that Atkinson was informed of an unspecified issue with pitch No 7 - but that he did not share the sentiment.
Concerns have arisen that the pitch to be used for the final in Ahmedabad may also be changed.
Aktinson is understood to have flown to Ahmedabad last week, prompted by frustration over a lack of answers around preparation for the final.
It has further been revealed while that the opening match of the World Cup between the Black Caps and England was played on the agreed surface, none of the next three matches followed the schedule - with Atkinson claiming an email that changes had been made “without proper notice or forewarning”.
The matter is complicated further still by the fact Atkinson was told by a senior ICC official that the round-robin match between India and Pakistan took place on the agreed pitch No 7, when it actually took place on No 5.
Atkinson also recommended a pitch for the final that has only been used once but has since learned that another pitch, that has had two matches played on it, will be used for the final - once again bringing spin bowling to the fore.
Australian media are reporting that when asked who had authorised the changes, the BCCI referred to the Gujarat Cricket Association, who in turn claimed they were acting under instructions from the BCCI with requests made directly from the Indian team management.
Atkinson’s email warns: “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.
“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 said further.
BCCI’s spokesperson said “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.”