After India trudged over the line to chase 100 runs with one ball to spare, to level the T20 series 1-1 against New Zealand on Sunday, the pitch curator at Lucknow’s Ekana Stadium has been sacked, according to sources in the Uttar Pradesh Cricket Association (UPCA).
Following the six-wicket win, India skipper Hardik Pandya called the pitch “a shocker of a wicket”, that saw spin bowled for 30 out of 39.5 overs, and a grand total of 200 runs scored on it.
The India skipper was also unhappy about the state of the pitch in Ranchi’s JSCA Stadium, another turner where India suffered a 21-run defeat at the hands of the Kiwis. “Both the games (pitches) we have played on so far (have been shockers). I don’t mind difficult wickets. I am all up for that, but these two wickets are not made for T20. Somewhere down the line, the curators or the grounds that we are going to play in should make sure they prepare the pitches earlier,” he added.
According to the sources, the curator had prepared two black soil pitches for the game in advance. However, at the behest of a last-minute request from team management three days prior to the match,the curator had been asked to prepare a fresh pitch made of red soil instead. The new pitch could not be adequately prepared on short notice, and led to even slower conditions.
The pitch curation was subject to heavy criticism following Sunday’s match with Team India bowling coach Paras Mhambrey echoing the concerns of Pandya when asked about the conditions. “The curator is the right person to answer that question (on pitch),” he said. “There was a little grass covering on the middle, but there was none on both ends. When we came yesterday, it looked like it would turn and we realised it would be challenging.” Gautam Gambhir, mentor of the Lucknow Super Giants IPL franchise, called it a “sub-standard wicket” on Star Sports studio.
The pitch curator in Lucknow has now been replaced by Sanjeev Agarwal from Gwalior, in a bid to have it ready ahead of the return of home-and-away fixtures in the IPL in March.
Meanwhile, Pandya’s side will now prepare to take New Zealand in the series decider at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad amid heightened scrutiny of the quality of the surface they play on, and the ability of India’s new-look T20 batting order to deal with turning tracks.
In the final T20I before the IPL kicks off, it remains to be seen whether Prithvi Shaw – fresh off a triple century in the Ranji Trophy this month – gets a look into the side.
With Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, and KL Rahul out of the team, both Shubhman Gill and Ishan Kishan – on the back of their own ODI double centuries – have been trusted to lead the top order for India alongside Rahul Tripathi. The trio have scored a combined total 54 runs in the two matches.