Aussies caught up in 'outrageous' furore as India advance to Cricket World Cup final

Australia will play India in the final if they can get past South Africa in the second semi-final.

Virat Kohli and Steve Smith, pictured here at the Cricket World Cup.
Australia will take on Virat Kohli and India if they advance to the final of the Cricket World Cup. Image: Getty

Australia appear likely to play their semi-final against South Africa on an old pitch that has been used before amid controversy around India's actions at the Cricket World Cup. India advanced to the final on Wednesday night, beating New Zealand by 70 runs as Virat Kohli and Shreyas Iyer both made centuries.

Kohli scored his 50th century in ODI cricket, making 117 to go past the record held by Indian legend Sachin Tebdulkar. Iyer chipped in with 105 as India amassed 4-397, before Mohammed Shami took seven wickets to send the Kiwis packing.

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But controversy has erupted over the sway that the Indian team has in regards to the preparation and allocation of pitches for the semi-finals and final after it emerged that curators had bowed to a request from the tournament hosts to produce a slower wicket by shaving off most of the grass. It also came to light that the ICC had switched the pitch to be used for the game against New Zealand from a new one that hadn't been used before in the tournament, to an old one that had already been used twice.

And it looks like the same situation will occur for the second semi-final between Australia and South Africa in Kolkata, with Pat Cummins revealing his side are expecting plenty of spin on the worn pitch. The pitch to be used in Kolkata is believed to be the same one that England and Pakistan played on just five days ago.

"It does look like it's probably going to spin a bit more than some of the other wickets – which is the same for both teams," Cummins told reporters on Wednesday. "It might just be a slightly different paced game, but I think it's still pretty evenly matched."

Rohit Sharma at the Cricket World Cup.
Curators reportedly bowed to a request from India about what pitch they wanted. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

Furore erupts after India gets pitch switched at last minute

According to reports, players inspected the pitch on Wednesday, with Steve Smith said to be surprised by what he saw. There are no requirements for semi-finals and finals to be played on brand new pitches at a World Cup, but questions are being asked about why the India-New Zealand surface was switched at the last minute to accommodate the hosts.

The original plan was to use pitch No.7 at the Wankhede Stadium, but it was changed to No.6. “Changes to planned pitch rotations are common towards the end of an event of this length, and has already happened a couple of times,” a statement from the ICC said.

“This change was made on the recommendation of the venue curator in conjunction with our host. The ICC independent pitch consultant was apprised of the change and has no reason to believe the pitch won’t play well.”

Steve Smith at the Cricket World Cup.
Steve Smith inspects the pitch before Australia's clash with South Africa at the Cricket World Cup. (Photo by Matthew Lewis-ICC/ICC via Getty Images)

But a leaked email from ICC pitch consultant Andy Atkinson has thrown a spanner in the works and suggests the BCCI are having more sway than they should. According to reports, the Gujarat Cricket Association (who are in charge of pitch preparation at Wankhede Stadium) have said they were acting under instructions from the BCCI, not the ICC.

“As a result of these actions, one must speculate if this 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," Atkinson said. "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?”

Aussie uproar over 'outrageous' situation at World Cup

Discussing the situation on Wednesday, Aussie commentator Gerard Whateley said it was "outrageous" that the Indian board could dictate terms to the ICC considering it's meant to be an international tournament. “I can’t believe that. No, I shouldn’t say that … I can believe this absolutely, that this is happening,” he said on SEN radio.

“I think it’s outrageous. This is an international tournament. Prepare the pitches however you like for your home series, every nation has the choice to do that if they want to. But this is an international tournament, it hasn’t quite felt that way. It’s felt like a tournament in India for India and for India to win.

“This is evidently going on. It’s one thing when you’re the host nation of your own Test series for the team to influence the preparation for the pitch. It just shouldn’t be happening at an international tournament. It is just so brazened as to be breathtaking and confirms everything that we know about pitch preparation in India. No matter how much denial there is of it.”

Australia will take on South Africa on Thursday night (Aussie time). The winner will play India in the final on Sunday night.

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