World Cup Diary: ICC curator's thumbs up for Indian pitches
Also, Virat Kohli has a surprise visitor to wish him a happy 35th birthday
A key test for hosting a mega event like the ICC World Cup across 10 venues, in a country with diverse geographical conditions, is the feedback about the wickets — and this is where the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) curators have passed muster.
Andy Atkinson, head curator with the International Cricket Council (ICC), is happy with what he saw at Kolkata's Eden Gardens and feels that the overall nature of Indian pitches have improved.
Speaking to National Herald after doing a recce of the wicket ahead of the India-South Africa game at Eden on Sunday, Atkinson said: ‘’There were a few problems in the outfield with fungus growth owing to heavy rains, but they have worked hard to sort them out.’’
Incidentally, Dharamsala — where the elevation above sea level had provided much encouragement to seamers — was reported to have fungal growth in the outfield too.
“And almost every pitch we have played on so far in this World Cup has been good. There has been a proper balance between the bat and ball. In fact, this balance was something I had spoken of (during the curators’ seminar in Mumbai) when I came to India back in August,” Atkinson said. The curators of all 10 venues had a workshop with him, including Eden curator Sujan Mukherjee.
Asked about his observations on the Eden pitch, Atkinson said: “It used to be slow and flat but at present, it’s a lot more sporting... Been easy for me because of the hard work put in by the ground staff here as they were prepared for all situations. You can sense the hard work.”
Incidentally, quite a few matches in the tournament have seen 350-plus scores by a single team, while teams with moderate batting strength like Afghanistan have done a good job while chasing. The odd batting collapse — such as Sri Lanka folding up for 55 against India in Mumbai — was largely due to the batters’ inability to withstand the bowling attack rather than any demons in the pitch.
A chance AB-Virat meeting
The hype around Virat Kohli’s 35th birthday has been hard to miss around the Eden on Sunday. The master batter had a surprise guest in AB de Villiers, a friend and soulmate thanks to several years of association as part of their IPL team Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB).
De Villiers, a former South Africa captain and original ‘Mr 360 degrees’ of cricket, has been invited by the ICC to hand over the prizes at the presentation ceremony. The duo were seen chatting outside the Indian dressing room during the knocking session ahead of the toss.
Seeing the two in animated conversation, there was some speculation in the press box about whether AB would be seen in a mentor’s role for the RCB next IPL season. Only time will tell.