It's official, Kotla pitch is 'unfit'

Delhi wicket does not meet the requirements for an ODI match, says match referee Alan Hurst

It's official, Kotla pitch is 'unfit'

 Indian and Sri Lankan cricketers walk back to the pavilion after the abandonment of the fifth ODI at Ferozeshah Kotla on Sunday. AP

According to the guidance for rating one-day international pitches, Hurst has rated the Kotla surface as being ‘unfit’ – the spectrum ranges from Very good, Good, Above average, Below average, Poor and Unfit – in his report to the International Cricket Council.

The Kotla is to host four matches at the World Cup – South Africa vs West Indies (Feb 24), West Indies vs Netherlands (Feb 28), Kenya vs Canada (Mar 7) and India vs Netherlands (Mar 9). Should it lose its host status, it will be a huge embarrassment for the national capital, especially considering Sharad Pawar would by then have taken charge as the ICC president.

The ICC has given the Board of Control for Cricket in India 14 days to throw light on the condition of the pitch, after which the world governing body will deliberate on the reply. The existing ICC sanctions for pitches found unfit include a suspension of the venue’s status to host international cricket for between 12 and 24 months, together with a directive for appropriate corrective action. The BCCI does hold the right of appeal within 24 hours of receipt of notification of the ICC decision and penalty.

Sources involved in the process told Deccan Herald that in his official report in the prescribed format, former Australian paceman Hurst has written of the Kotla track, “This pitch meant the players were unsure of what the ball would do. Playing shots was risky because of the unpredictable bounce. However, of more concern was the dangerous bounce that occurred randomly and accounted for batsmen being struck on a number of occasions.

“At the other extreme, bounce was often very low. This pitch did not allow players to play with any confidence and was totally unsuitable for international cricket. This pitch did not meet the requirements for an ODI match.”Hurst has added that on match day, the whole square had a ‘reasonable grass cover except for the match pitch and the adjacent partially prepared pitch’.

“These were sparsely covered with tufty green-tinged grass and there were some unusual small bare patches interspersed,” he observed. “From the start of the game it was noticeable that the pitch had variable and unpredictable bounce, with occasional erratic seam movement.”

Hurst pointed out that it wasn’t long before the Sri Lankan team management took note of the happenings after the visitors were put in by Mahendra Singh Dhoni. “The Sri Lankan manager and coach came to the TV umpire’s room around 10 overs and complained that the pitch was dangerous. A little later, I conferred with the on-field umpires (Marais Erasmus and Shahvir Tarapore) and asked their opinion of whether the wicket was fit for play. They said it was a poor and unpredictable pitch but at that stage they would like to see if it settles down.”

Throwing light on the sequence of events that led to the abandonment, Hurst wrote, “With further Sri Lankan batsmen being struck on arms and hands, the Sri Lankan coach once again came to the TV umpire’s room, suggesting the wicket was dangerous. Three Sri Lankan players were struck by rising deliveries and play was stopped on three occasions for batsmen to receive medical treatment.

“The umpires met mid pitch after a delivery at over 23.3 rose alarmingly off a length, seamed and went past the batsman about head height. They contacted me by radio and suggested the pitch was unfit for play. Sri Lanka captain Sangakkara and I met them in the centre. After consultation at the wicket between on-field umpires, both captains and I, it was decided that the match could not continue on that wicket.”

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