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Poor Pune pitch could cost India - again

Cricket

The Board of Control for Cricket in India could be fined almost $A20,000 for producing a "poor" pitch in Pune, where the first Test finished inside three days.

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The controversial wicket, which was likened to “the surface of Mars” by Shane Warne, provided plenty of assistance for spinners from both Australia and India.

Steve O’Keefe spun the visitors to a 1-0 lead in the four-Test series by claiming a haul of 12-70, the best ever match figures by a visiting spinner in India.

Staff were ordered to doctor the pitch, including the use of metallic brushes to scuff up the dry deck

Pune curator Pandurang Salgaonkar was forced to kowtow to BCCI chief curator Daljit Singh in the lead-up. An Indian Express report claims ground staff were ordered to doctor the pitch, including the use of metallic brushes to scuff up the dry deck.

Match referee Chris Broad branded the pitch “poor” in his formal report. The BCCI now has 14 days to provide a response to the International Cricket Council.

The ICC will then review the matter and has the power to issue a warning or fine of $US15,000 (approximately $A19,500).

A similar scenario played out in Nagpur in 2015, when South Africa were spun out on a raging turner inside three days. Match referee Jeff Crowe rated that strip as “poor”.

Even if the BCCI is fined the full amount, it will amount to pocket change for the world’s most powerful cricket organisation.

The expectation is the pitch for the second Test, which starts in Bangalore on Saturday, will be far flatter.

The Pune track was widely criticised by former India players, with Sunil Gavaskar, Sourav Ganguly and Harbhajan Singh all slamming it for helping Australia’s cause.

Australia skipper Steve Smith suggested the hosts “played into our hands” by preparing the dry deck that delivered Australia’s first Test win in India since 2004.

Chief executives from cricket boards around the world flagged the need for stricter pitch punishments earlier this month at a round of ICC meetings.

“Venues and boards should be more accountable for the standard of pitches and outfields they present for international matches,” the ICC said in a statement.

However, the proposed demerit point system would punish individual venues instead of boards. In this instance, the BCCI was reportedly responsible for the pitch doctoring.

Aussies “need to keep improving”

Australia “shut a few people up” in Pune, but spearhead Mitchell Starc knows the job is far from done after the breakthrough Test win in India.

Steve Smith’s side have already exceeded expectations in their four-Test series against India, steamrolling the hosts by 333 runs in the first Test. But the visitors have far grander ambitions, wanting to not only retain the Border-Gavaskar trophy but record their first Test series win in India since 1969.

It would be a shock outcome given pundits and past players in both Australia and India gave them little hope of even being competitive. Former India captain Sourav Ganguly and serial antagonist Harbhajan Singh both predicted India would thump the visitors 4-0.

“We’ve come here as a group believing we can win and I think everyone has written us off and expected India to win,” spearhead Mitchell Starc said ahead of the second Test, which starts in Bangalore on Saturday.

“So to shut a few people up and really show that this young team is here to play and we’ve adapted really well in our lead-up, it’s been great for the group.

“The last series a couple of us were here for didn’t go down that well, so to get that Test win has been great for the group.

“But it’s one Test win, it’s not a series win yet.”

India surrendered in both innings during the first Test, scoring a total of 212 runs in the match. It was the nation’s lowest total in a home Test ever.

Starc enjoyed the way the top-ranked Test side crumbled, but doubted whether it would be so easy in any of the remaining three Tests.

“It’s probably not all too often that they collapse like that, so we’re really happy that happened,” he said.

“But one Test is not going to win us a series.

“We’ve got a great chance in Bangalore to go 2-0 up and make sure we retain that trophy first and foremost, but also take big steps in this series to go on and try to win.

“We need to keep improving.”

-AAP

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