Pune curator dismissed after pitch controversy
The BCCI has "dismissed" Pandurang Salgaoncar, the Maharashtra Cricket Association (MCA) curator, for "malpractice" that was captured on camera by undercover reporters. The controversy did not affect the start of the second ODI between India and New Zealand, which began as scheduled after a routine pre-match pitch inspection by ICC match officials. Ramesh Mhamunkar, a member of the BCCI's grounds and pitches committee, was put in charge of the pitch.
The nature of what the BCCI called "malpractice" emerged in a sting operation video carried out by reporters from India Today TV. In the released footage, which has been edited, Salgaoncar is shown interacting with the reporters and talking to them about the pitch for the ODI - the voiceover says the reporters are posing as bookies though the released footage does not show them introducing themselves to Salgaoncar as such.
The conversations in the released video are centred on the pitch. Shot over Monday and Tuesday, Salgaoncar said in the video that the pitch - No. 8 of the 15 strips - would have runs. "It is very good. It will garner 337 runs. And 337 will be chaseable."
The ground is a new one and before Wednesday's game had only hosted two ODIs. First innings scores in those two were 304-8 and 350-7 (an average of 327); the latter score was chased down.
In a different clip, at the stadium, Salgaoncar alerts the reporters to the presence of Mhamunkar at the ground. He tells them that as per regulations no outsider is allowed to be at the pitch. Nonetheless one of the reporters is shown tapping a pitch. In another exchange, in a car, the reporter asks whether two fast bowlers could be given some help from the match's pitch. Salgaoncar replies that the pitch always helps fast bowlers.
And in another, the reporter asks that either a player or a team - the identity has been bleeped out - be dealt a "favor" for the game. Salgaoncar says: "I told you, this will be a 340-run wicket, either way."
The reporter replies, "You've already said that. We will do betting on that. But the ****** [name of player or team] we want a favour for tomorrow's match..."
Salcaongar interrupts and says: "That will be done good. I told you."
In response, the BCCI immediately "dismissed" Salgaoncar. Though the acting board president CK Khanna had earlier told ESPNcricinfo that Salgaoncar would be "suspended" and "barred" from entering the ground, a BCCI release left no doubt that the curator had been sacked.
"After reports stating an alleged malpractice from the MCA (Maharashtra State Cricket Association) pitch curator, Mr Pandurang Salgaoncar, the MCA has dismissed Mr Salgaoncar from the position of Curator with immediate effect," the board said.
"A strict action has been taken against the pitch curator and the employment relationship between Mr Pandurang Salgaonkar and MCA stands terminated," the CEO Rahul Johri said. An inquiry will now take place into the events.
As the incident concerns an international match the ICC will also be involved. "We are investigating the allegations from Pune this morning, as with all international cricket, the ICC Anti-Corruption Unit has an ICC ACU Manager on the ground in India and we are in close contact with him," an ICC spokesperson told ESPNcricinfo. "We are now looking to establish the facts and will make no further comment whilst this is ongoing."
MCA president Abhay Apte said: "The MCA will be making a detailed enquiry on what has happened or what has appeared on the television. But before we have our urgent meeting, in the capacity of the MCA president, I have taken Mr Salgaoncar under immediate suspension with immediate effect and all his work has been withdrawn."
Salgaoncar, a long-time curator and former fast bowler, was involved in another pitch controversy earlier this year, after the surface for the first Test between India and Australia in March was rated poor by the ICC match referee Chris Broad.
Additional inputs by Arun Venugopal, Vishal Dikshit, Osman Samiuddin
Nagraj Gollapudi is a senior assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo