The knockouts are finally here for the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023 with the host nation and the table-toppers India taking on New Zealand in the first semi-final in Mumbai on Wednesday, November 15. India have breezed past every single opposition in the round-robin stage and ended it with an undefeated record while New Zealand found themselves on the receiving end of losses against the top three teams and Pakistan but ensured a two-point finish against every other side to qualify for fifth consecutive semi-finals of World Cup.
India played at a different venue in every single game while New Zealand played at six out of 10 venues in their run to the semis. The Kiwis will be playing at the Wankhede Stadium for the first time and it seems a slower pitch will greet them at a venue, which is otherwise famous for producing good batting surfaces. A report by ESPNCricinfo suggested that a last-minute change has been made in the pitch with a used one being deployed for the semi-final rather than a fresh one.
Pitch No.7 was to be used for the semi-final but pitch no.6, on which two games have already been played is set to be used for the semi-final. Even though the ICC doesn’t have a mandate saying that the knockouts should take place on a fresh surface but expects the groundsmen to present the best possible surface for the said game.
A report in the DailyMail alleged foul play saying that Andy Atkinson, an independent pitch consultant with the ICC, is frustrated with the changes to pitches throughout the tournament. The report further alleged that Atkinson in a leaked email speculated if the pitch for the World Cup final in Ahmedabad “will be the first ever ICC CWC 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?”
The conjectures and uncertainties are too much and will be resolved once the play gets underway but the Indian team is surely under scrutiny given the last-minute change from the pre-agreed plan.
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