In a last-minute twist, the first semi-final of the World Cup 2023 between India and New Zealand in Mumbai, will take place on a used pitch. It was initially planned to be played on a fresh pitch, however, it was changed in the eleventh hour.

The switch to Pitch 6, which has already witnessed two matches in the tournament, deviates from the pre-World Cup pitch allocation plan.

Despite previously allocated pitch plan, India’s team management have changed the surface for tonight’s game to a slower, lower strip that will make life more difficult for New Zealand’s high-quality seam bowlers.

Pitch 7, the central strip initially designated for the semi-final, was a fresh surface that hadn’t been utilized in the league stage. However, a decision was made to move the game to Pitch 6, slightly off-center, and previously hosting South Africa’s 229-run victory over England on October 21 and India’s 302-run triumph over Sri Lanka on November 2.

The alteration represents a departure from the planned rotation of pitches at Wankhede, with sources indicating that a planned sequence of 6-8-6-8-7 was intended, but the actual usage so far has been 6-8-6-8.

ICC Rules about Pitch Selection for Semi-Final

While the ICC’s Playing Conditions for the World Cup place the responsibility of pitch selection and preparation on the ‘ground authority’—in this case, the Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA)—it is noteworthy that there’s no explicit ICC requirement mandating fresh pitches for knockout fixtures. The only expectation is that venues present the best possible pitch and outfield conditions for each match.

The situation has reportedly caused frustration, with leaked emails suggesting concerns from the ICC’s independent pitch consultant, Andy Atkinson, regarding changes to pre-agreed plans throughout the World Cup. The leaked email hinted at speculation about the pitch for the final in Ahmedabad, raising questions about adherence to stipulations at the request of team management or the home nation board.

“As a result of these actions, one must speculate if this will be the first ever ICC CWC [World Cup] 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 wrote in an email published by The Daily Mail.

“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?”

The inspection of the Wankhede pitch by both Indian and New Zealand players on Tuesday evening added a layer of anticipation to the semi-final clash, highlighting the significance of pitch conditions in this crucial stage of the tournament.

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