BCCI’s push for competitive Ranji venues dented by Wankhede ‘batting beauty’ | cricket | Hindustan Times
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BCCI’s push for competitive Ranji venues dented by Wankhede ‘batting beauty’

The kind of wicket dished out at the Wankhede Stadium for the first Ranji Trophy match at this Churchgate venue has been termed an absolute “batting beauty.”

cricket Updated: Oct 17, 2016 12:37 IST
Harit Joshi
In the last four days, 1283 runs were scored between Maharashtra and Delhi at the Wankhede, out of which 1225 came in the first innings itself.
In the last four days, 1283 runs were scored between Maharashtra and Delhi at the Wankhede, out of which 1225 came in the first innings itself.(PTI)

One of the main points of contention for playing Ranji Trophy on neutral venues was to not let teams take undue advantage of home conditions by preparing wickets which suit their strengths.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) wanted sporting wickets for their premier domestic tournament. However, the kind of wicket dished out at the Wankhede Stadium for the first Ranji Trophy match at this Churchgate venue has been termed an absolute “batting beauty”.

In the last four days, 1283 runs were scored between Maharashtra and Delhi, out of which 1225 came in the first innings itself. It was only the second instance where there were two triple centuries in a first-class match — Delhi’s Rishabh Pant (308) and Swapnil Gugale (351 not out).

Pant almost single-handedly took Delhi close to Maharashtra’s 635/2 declared after the southpaw was stumped by Satyajeet Bacchav. Delhi lost their remaining three wickets for 19 runs as they eventually folded up for 590, falling 45 runs short of Maharashtra’s first innings total.

Fearing backlash from the BCCI, coaches of both teams chose to tread carefully in their assessment of the wicket. Maharashtra skipper Gugale, however, gave a glimpse of how the wicket behaved: “On this wicket if you don’t make a mistake then there is very little chance of getting you out.”

This is not the only high-scoring game that the Wankhede has witnessed in the last couple of seasons. In fact, if the first innings scores of both teams are totaled then scoring 900-plus runs has become the norm at Wankhede. Only two matches (J&K and Punjab) in the last two Ranji Trophy seasons have yielded an outright result at the Wankhede Stadium.

Last season, the Mumbai Ranji Trophy team even contemplated shifting their remaining Wankhede ties to the Bandra Kurla Complex ground, a move which was later thwarted by the Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA).

It is not just the case with Ranji Trophy matches, Wankhede has witnessed exorbitant scores in the ODIs and T20 Internationals as well. Nearly four hundred runs were scored in the last international match at Wankhede — the World T20 semi-final between India and West Indies. In a World T20 league match, England chased down South Africa’s 229/4 with two balls to spare. In the four World T20 matches at the Wankhede Stadium, 1593 runs (excluding warm-ups) were scored — the most among all seven venues utilised in the tournament.

It was at the Wankhede Stadium in October 2015 when South Africa posted a record 438/4 in an ODI against India.

Wankhede curator Ramesh Mhamunkar defended the wicket. “There was incessant rain here a week before this match that hampered our work to a lot of extent. The wicket was covered most of the time. We prepared this wicket in just three to four days. Since it was the first match of the season, we wanted to ensure there was play for all four days,” Mhamunkar said.

Former India Test batsman and ex-Wankhede curator Sudhir Naik, who was last month reappointed as pitch consultant by the MCA, said his role has been very limited now. “I have been consultant for MCA only when the season is on. I don’t look after the pitches in off season when most of the work has to be done. Once the season starts, nothing can be done. The soil which is currently used to prepare the Wankhede wicket is not properly tested and that is why it is deteriorating,” said Naik.

Wankhede’s wicket has built a reputation of excellent bounce and carry. It also received the best Indian Premier League ground award for three years in succession. All that, however, is taking a serious beating with the way the matches have panned out in the last couple of seasons.