ICC rates Cape Town pitch ‘unsatisfactory’, was it not ‘poor’?

Cape Town Pitch
Cape Town Pitch (Source: Subhayan)

The International Cricket Council (ICC) announced on Tuesday that the pitch for the second Test between South Africa and India at Newlands has been rated as “unsatisfactory”. Accordingly, the venue has received one demerit point.

The game in Cape Town lasted just 642 legal deliveries — the shortest in the history of Test cricket — and was over in a day-and-a-half. Twenty-three wickets fell on Day One, with Mohammed Siraj taking a career-best 6/15 and the hosts getting bundled out for 55 in their first innings. From that perspective, an “unsatisfactory” rating, which amounts to ‘below average’, is dubious enough to raise a few eyebrows.

India won the Test by seven wickets to finish the series 1-1, but even by ICC match referee Chris Broad’s assessment, the strip was very difficult for the batters. “The pitch in Newlands was very difficult to bat on. The ball bounced quickly and sometimes alarmingly throughout the match, making it difficult to play shots. Several batters were hit on the gloves and many wickets also fell due to the awkward bounce,” Broad said in a statement, via the ICC media release.

Interestingly, Broad had adjudged the Holkar Stadium pitch in Indore for the third Test between India and Australia last year “poor” or “unfit” despite the game going into the third day.

One demerit point is awarded to venues, where pitches and outfields are rated as unsatisfactory, while three demerit points are awarded to venues, where pitches and outfields are marked as unfit.

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All said and done, the whole process reeks of inconsistency, something that India captain Rohit Sharma addressed at his post-match press conference in Cape Town.

“I think it’s important that we stay neutral everywhere we go. Especially the match referees. You know, some of these match referees need to keep their eye on how they rate pitches. It’s quite important,” Rohit had said, as he called out the supposed double standards.

He added: “I still can’t believe that the World Cup final pitch was rated below average. A batsman got a hundred there in the final. How can that be a poor pitch? So these are the things the ICC, the match referees, they need to look into and start rating pitches based on what they see, not based on the countries. I think that’s quite important.”

As per the ICC release, both captains, Dean Elgar and Rohit felt the pitch was “below standard”.

Demerit points remain active for a rolling five-year period and when a venue accumulates six demerit points, it gets barred from hosting any international cricket for 12 months.

As for Cricket South Africa, it has 14 days to appeal against the ICC’s decision.

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