Sunil Gavaskar has taken an angry swipe at critics who questioned India's role in a pitch controversy that overshadowed their semi-final victory over New Zealand at the Cricket World Cup. Tournament hosts India advanced to Wednesday night's final after beating New Zealand by 70 runs as Virat Kohli and Shreyas Iyer both made centuries.
Kohli's ton was the 50th of his extraordinary ODI career, taking him one clear of fellow India great Sachin Tendulkar for the most in history. The record-breaking feat helped India amass a whopping 4-397, before Mohammed Shami took seven wickets to leave the Kiwis all out for 327.
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Controversy erupted before the match when it was reported that curators at Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium 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.
The development left many around the cricket world seething, with critics such as former England captain Michael Vaughan saying a World Cup semi-final should never be played on a used pitch. "It is a bit of a sour taste. It doesn't sit with me that a World Cup semi-final is played on a used pitch," Vaughan told the BBC.
"They (India) have played the best cricket by a country mile. They shouldn't have got involved in what the surface should be. We should be talking about cricket but rather than these two incredible teams we are talking about the pitch."
Vaughan's comments were echoed around the cricket world but Indian legend Gavaskar has since hit back, and said the controversy around the used pitch and India's involvement was "nonsense". The used pitch made the conditions slower and was supposed to make scoring harder while favouring India's formidable spin attack.
Ultimately though, it was Indian quick Shami that did the damage to the Kiwi attack, with his seven wickets dispelling some of the myths around the used pitch. Speaking on Star Sports after the match, Gavaskar labelled critics of the pitch as "morons" and argued that it didn't favour either side having been determined before the coin toss.
Sunil Gavaskar takes aim at pitch critics
“All those morons who were talking about the pitch being changed and that it would do the Indian bowlers a favour, I hope they will just shut up," he said. “Stop taking potshots at India just because it helps you get eyeballs. Nonsense.
“Even if the pitch was changed, it was there before the toss for both the teams. It wasn’t changed in the mid-innings. It wasn’t changed after the toss was done.
“The pitch was the same for both teams. You are a good enough team, you play on that pitch and you win. And India has done that. So stop talking about pitches.
“Already they’re talking about the pitch in Ahmedabad (the venue for the final). The second semi-final hasn’t even taken place, you’re talking about the pitch being changed in Ahmedabad. Nonsense.”
Pat Cummins unfazed by used pitch for semi-final
The issue is set to arise again for Australia's semi-final against South Africa in Kolkata on Thursday night, with the match tipped to be played on the same pitch that hosted England's match against Pakistan five days ago. Aussie skipper Pat Cummins said his men were expecting plenty of spin on the worn pitch but said it shouldn't favour either side.
"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."
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