The ICC has officially rated the pitch in Indore used for the Third Test between India and Australia as poor, stating that it did not offer a fair balance between bat and ball.
The ruling means that Indore could be banned from hosting future international matches if there is any repeat.
Such a verdict is a rare occurrence, but concerns were raised as early as the first over of the match which did not go beyond lunch on the third day, with the tourists winning by 9 wickets.
India had won the first two matches in the series, both of them inside three days, on pitches that very much favoured spinners. However, in this case, the ground staff in Indore may have gone too far, and the strategy ended up backfiring on the home side.
The ICC’s verdict
According to the ICC match referee Chris Broad, the Indore pitch was very dry and favoured spin from the start with just the fifth ball of the match breaking through the surface.
There was little or no help to the seamers, and there was uneven and excessive bounce throughout the match. It was not a fair contest between bat and ball.
Of the 31 wickets that fell, one was a run-out and four fell to seamers, and the rest were claimed by spinners. No side scored more than 200 runs in the match, and the highest individual score was 60 by Australia’s Usman Khawaja in their first innings.
It is rare for a pitch to get such a poor rating. The last time it happened, India were also involved five years ago on their tour of South Africa when they played in Johannesburg. On that occasion, the match was stopped for a while because of the dangerous bounce but later resumed.
Perhaps the most infamous example of an unfit pitch occurred in 1998 when the West Indies and England met in Kingston, Jamaica.
On that occasion, the match was abandoned after less than an hour’s play with both captains deeming it too dangerous to continue after several English batters had been struck by balls that reared up off the surface.
The Indore pitch has been given three demerit points by the ICC. That is in the middle range of punishments available. One demerit point is awarded to pitches that are rated as average, whilst five goes to those judged unfit.
Any venue that collects five demerit points is banned from staging international matches for 12 months. Should they collect 10 demerit points, then that punishment is extended by another year.
Everybody does it
India are by no means the only country or cricketing side to prepare a pitch that suits the strength of their team, and it would be hypocritical of commentators to claim otherwise.
When questioned after the match, Indian captain Rohit Sharma acknowledged this, saying: “We want to play pitches like this – this is our strength. We want to play to our strength at home and not worries what the people outside are talking about. Our strength is spin and our batting depth.”
However, in this case, the ground staff went too far and were too zealous in applying the instructions they were given.
The spotlight will be very much now on the curators at Ahmedabad.
Implications for the World Test Championship
Australia’s win in Indore has definitely confirmed their place in the World Test Championship (WTC) final to be staged at The Oval in London in June.
India are still favourites to join them and can make certain of it by winning the fourth test in Ahmedabad. Even then, the only way that they can be denied is if Sri Lanka whitewash New Zealand in their coming series, in which case it will be the Sri Lankans who will face Australia.
Nevertheless, the Indore result may scupper plans to prepare a green pitch in Ahmedabad to replicate as far as possible the conditions they might face in England in three months’ time. India will not want to leave anything to chance.
Given the evidence of the first three matches, anybody holding tickets for the fourth day will be very lucky if they see any cricket at all.
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