Stung by Rajasthan Royals captain Shane Warne's scathing attack on changing the pitch for their home match, the Board of Control for Cricket in India on Tuesday sought to put the lid on the controversy, saying selecting the playing surface is the prerogative of the curator and the teams have no choice on the matter.
A last-minute change of track at the Sawai Man Singh stadium in Jaipur for Rajasthan Royals' match against Chennai Super Kings triggered off controversy, with a livid Warne slamming the decision as "ridiculous" and saying that host teams have the right to extract the best out of home conditions.
- Ridiculous to have instructions for pitch: Warne
Warne expressed displeasure at the post-match media conference on Monday, stating that never in these four years were they instructed on which surface to use. The Royals have always preferred a slowish track compared to the one that was selected by curator Venkat Sundaram.
The BCCI tried to douse the fire later in the day, as fingers were being pointed at CSK, which is owned by India Cements supremo and BCCI secretary N Srinivasan using their clout to influence the curator's decision.
IPL chairman Chirayu Amin issued a statement, saying it is the curator, in consultation with the BCCI's Ground and Pitches Committee, who decides the playing surface and there is nothing sinister about the change of pitch at Jaipur.
"The BCCI would like to confirm that its Ground and Pitches Committee sent recommendations for ground and pitch preparation to all host associations before the start of the IPL season. Included in the same was the advice that 'the pitches should have good pace and consistent bounce," the statement said.
"The committee members have visited a number of the IPL venues both before and, where necessary, during the season, and made appropriate recommendations, the priority being to ensure competitive and quality cricket," it said.
Amin, in his statement, also rubbished the concept that the home team is allowed to take a call on the playing strip.
"Neither of the playing teams has a choice of the wicket, on which to play the game. It is the curator, in consultation with the Ground and Pitches Committee Chairman, who prepares the wickets," he said.
"The BCCI wishes to clarify that the wicket used in the match between Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals, played at Jaipur on 9th May 2011, was as per the decision of the curator and the Ground and Pitches Committee. This decision was taken in the best interests of the game."
The statement also included a statement made by the chairman of BCCI's Grounds and Pitches committee, Venkat Sundaram.
"The IPL is being played at the end of the Indian domestic season, and after the World Cup. Therefore, the main pitches are bound to have wear-and-tear. The extreme heat prevailing all over the country has also taken its toll.
"Hence, it becomes necessary to change the pitches in some cases, as good playing conditions will result in good cricket," Sundaram stated.
Some of the franchise owners have been vocal about how CSK has allegedly "flouting norms". Sources in the Chennai camp defended the decision, saying, "It was purely a BCCI decision to change the pitch and they had no say in it."
Earlier, during the auctions this year, some of the franchises complained that the sequence of the players' auction was planned at the behest of Srinivasan, which allowed CSK to retain some of the players who came up for auction late and by the time other teams had exhausted their purse.
Rajasthan lost by 63 runs to Chennai on Monday night, playing on the new surface and Warne was livid with the change.
"In the past four years we have never been told to play on any particular wicket. It is ridiculous to have instructions for pitch," Warne fumed.
Asked if these instructions meant losing the home advantage to some extent, Warne retorted, "I have no idea from where the instructions came. But never before there have been such things going on. It is right of every team to extract best out of home conditions.
"The wickets for earlier matches were fantastic. If you had been watching earlier matches here you can make out easily that today's wicket was different. It has come as a shock and surprise that we were being instructed to play on certain kind of wicket," he said.
Though he did not blame anybody in particular, Warne was indirectly referring to the unofficial complaint that was lodged by Mumbai Indians after they were restricted to 94 for eight on a slow track.
"I don't want that there should be headings tomorrow that Shane Warne blames the pitch because it was same for both teams and I concede that we were outplayed. We were up against a side which was pumped and eager to win," he added.