Former England batter Mark Butcher has come down hard on BCCI for changing the pre-approved pitch for the World Cup semi-final between India and New Zealand at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai.

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India booked a spot in the final of the 2023 World Cup after registering a convincing 70-run victory over New Zealand yesterday (November 15).

Batting first, India put up a mammoth 397-4 off the back of centuries from Virat Kohli and Shreyas Iyer, before a Mohammed Shami seven-for knocked the wind of New Zealand’s sail in the run-chase, and they were bowled out for 327.

The match, however, was preceded by a controversy surrounding the pitch. A report by the Daily Mail suggested that the pitch that was supposed to be used for the first semi-final had been changed from pitch number seven, a previously unused surface in the World Cup, to pitch number six, on which two World Cup games had been already played.

The allegation was that the change was approved without consulting the ICC independent pitch consultant Andy Atkinson at the behest of the home board in order to aid the India team.

The ICC then had to release a statement saying that such alterations to pitch rotations are common in long tournaments and that Atkinson was “apprised” of the change: “Changes to planned pitch rotations are common towards the end of an event of this length, and has already happened a couple of times. This change was made on the recommendation of the venue curator in conjunction with our host. The ICC independent pitch consultant was apprised of the change and has no reason to believe the pitch won’t play well.”

After the match, Butcher spoke about how the pitch swap only adds to the perception that the ICC does what the BCCI wants. Speaking on the Wisden Cricket World Cup Daily podcast, Butcher said, “There is a growing perception that around the world in the game of cricket that the ICC is nearly sort of an executive branch of the BCCI. And when things like this happen, it does very little to change people’s opinion that that is the status quo.

“Now, to have Andy Atkinson, the ICC pitch inspector, apoplectic at the way the whole thing had gone about, regardless of whether or not the Maharashtra (Mumbai) Cricket Association were actually overall in charge of the conditions, to feel as though the ICC had kind of been blindsided by the decision that they clearly hadn’t been made aware of until the leak came, doesn’t do much to change people’s thought that the ICC basically does whatever the BCCI wants.”

Butcher also said that India have been the best team in the tournament, and thus they didn’t need to be doing things that may take the sheen off their performance on the field: “Look, India are the best team in the tournament, right? And if they win it, they will have deserved to win for that fact. Is there any need whatsoever, for there to be any sort of shenanigans whereby the gloss gets taken off the brilliance of their playing team?

“By this sort of, this nagging suspicion that the dice are loaded in their favour outside of the playing field as well. Stuff like this shouldn’t happen. And again, the pitch was fine, no issues with how it played. The issue is not how the pitch played.

“The issue is the railroading of the protocol around how it came about. And that, gives that perception that things are not as they ought to be, or at least that the playing field is not that level.”

Butcher added that taking everything else into consideration including television deals, hosting rights, and much more, the pitch-swapping controversy only goes on to reinforce people’s perception that the ICC is under the BCCI’s control: “The perception is that ICC does what the BCCI wants and the reality looks as though that is the case.

“That’s got nothing to do with India being the best side and nothing to do with what happened on the field today (November 15), but you extrapolate that to other concerns whether it be about money, whether it be about tournament hosting, whether it be about television rights, whether it be about any of those things, the perception is already there that there is something slightly awry and when things like that happen, it reinforces it.

“It’s an unnecessary blight on the Indian playing squad, who are utterly fabulous.”