Former BCCI secretary alleges 'pitch-fixing' in Pune Test, calls for CBI inquiry
Ajay Shirke also questions Pune curator's sanity following India's humiliating loss.
What’s the story?
In a rather bizarre development, former BCCI Secretary Ajay Shirke has alleged ‘pitch-fixing’ in the opening Test between India and Australia at the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium in Pune. Questioning Pune curator Pandurang Salgaoncar’s sanity, the 62-year-old even called for the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to probe the matter.
“I would like to see a CBI inquiry being initiated by the administrators appointed by the Supreme Court. It (doctoring pitches) has often plagued Indian cricket and it is high time we to get to the root of this mess. Instead of pointing fingers at various people without any evidence, I would like to see a CBI probe to find out the real culprit. Let them (CBI) check the phone records and find out who is passing on these messages,” Shirke was quoted as saying by Hindustan Times.
He ruminated, “(Ever) since the spot fixing (in IPL 2013) came to light, the whole Board (BCC) has been thrown out. Now let us see what steps the court-appointed administrators take to get to the root of pitch fixing. Pune has historically prepared seaming wickets, so what has suddenly gone wrong? Was Pandurang Salgaoncar intoxicated? Did he go mad?”
On a pitch which began to turn viciously right from the outset, Australia won a vital toss and reached a formidable first-innings total. Aided by a career-defining spell from left-arm spinner Steve O’Keefe, the visitors demolished India’s batting lineup for 105.
On the back of a stellar Steven Smith century in the second innings, they set an improbable target for Virat Kohli’s team. With O’Keefe getting into the act once again, the hosts were routed for 107 and sent crashing to a humiliating 333-run defeat.
The heart of the matter
Upon the conclusion of the Test, the Pune pitch was rated ‘poor’ by match referee Chris Broad. More pertinently, reports emerged that the Indian team management ordered the ground staff to prepare a rank turner. When Salgaoncar’s men remained reluctant to cater to their needs, BCCI’s board members intervened and commanded them to remove even a blade of grass for what would be the venue’s debut Test.
Even as BCCI is attempting to fight its way through a crisis, Shirke’s statements seem to be rather peculiar. For their failure to implement the Lodha reforms, Shirke and other senior BCCI officials including President Anurag Thakur were removed from office by a Supreme Court ruling earlier this year. In their place, the court nominated a panel of administrators to run the board.
Finding themselves 0-1 down in the 4-match series, the second Test at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru carries enormous significance for India. Eager to avoid a Pune-like fiasco, the Karnataka State Cricket Association (KSCA) curators have promised a sporting track intended to last for the majority of five days.
Shirke’s demand to bring in the CBI to probe the circumstances surrounding a cricket pitch border on the hilarious side of things. With quite a few law and order issues prevailing in the country, the bureau already has enough on its plate to even worry about something as trivial as this one.
With Australia comprehensively beating India in their own game, there simply cannot be any excuse for the hosts to cover up the defeat.