The BCCI has formally lodged an appeal with the ICC about the decision to rate the pitch used in Indore for the recent Third Test between India and Australia as poor.
The match referee made the decision after the ball began to spin in the first over of the match, with India losing nine wickets in the first session, despite choosing to bat first. The match did not last beyond lunch on the third day, India eventually losing by nine wickets.
If the rating is allowed to stand, then the three demerit points with which Indore have been penalised will stay in effect for a five year rolling period. Should it attract further censure during that period, it stands the risk of being unable to stage any international match for at least a year.
What the ICC said
In the opinion of the Match Referee, Chris Broad, the pitch did not offer a fair contest between bat and ball. There was excessive and uneven bounce throughout the match, with little or no assistance offered to the seam bowlers. Meanwhile, the surface of the pitch, which was very dry, cracked almost from the first over, and continued to deteriorate.
Broad hinted that both captains, Rohit Sharma and Steve Smith, agreed with his findings.
Why the appeal?
The BCCI has decided to mount an appeal feeling that the Match Referee made his judgment in haste, just hours after the match had finished. That is an unusual step, with the ICC normally taking more time to weigh up all the issues involved.
They also believe that there is scope for leniency, and that it would be possible to downgrade the assessment to below average.
There is recent precedent for this
The Rawalpindi pitch that hosted the First Test between Pakistan and England last December was declared as below average and was penalised with one demerit point. However, after an appeal by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), the ICC reversed its initial decision. It was decided that there were several redeeming factors, not least the fact that a positive result was achieved, and that 37 out of a possible 39 were taken.
Because the away side also won on that occasion, it may help the BCCI’s case, because there can be no suggestion that the pitch was specially prepared to help the home team.
Who will hear the appeal?
The appeal will be heard by a two-man commission made up of the ICC General Manager and the Chair of its Cricket Committee. Wasim Khan, a former chair of the PCB is the General Manager, whilst Sourav Ganguly, the former head of the BCCI, is the current incumbent of the Cricket Committee role.
However, as this immediately suggests a conflict of interest, Ganguly may have to recuse himself on this occasion, and allow somebody more neutral to act in his stead. Khan though, will be one of the arbitrators.
A final decision will be taken within 14 days of receiving the appeal.
Does it matter?
Whilst in the grand scheme of things it may seem irrelevant – India not only won the series but have clinched their place in the WTC (World Test Championship) final against Australia, it matters a great deal to Indore.
That is because there is enormous competition in India to stage matches, and whilst major venues like Mumbai, Kolkata, Delhi, and Ahmedabad, will always get their fair share of games, other cities are constantly striving for their chance. Staging any India match represents a substantial boost to the local economy, both in match day revenue, sponsorship and YV income, and the temporary jobs that it creates.
If the decision is allowed to stand, Indore is at risk of being squeezed out of consideration to stage future matches.
And it should also be acknowledged that preparing a pitch that may last up to five days for a test is a considerable skill, with many factors that need to be taken into account, including the quality of the grass and underlying soil, and the weather.
Add to that the pressure that is usually exerted from a home side to prepare a surface that plays to their strengths, and it is easy to get this wrong.
VISIT OUR BLG TO GET YOUR FIX FOR ALL OF THE MOST CURRENT CRICKET NEWS STORIES & FEATURES