We were told which pitch to play on - Warne
Shane Warne has said that he and Rajasthan Royals were shocked to be told which pitch to play on and how to prepare it for their home game against Chennai Super Kings. He said Rajasthan were told to play on a pitch on the edge of the square, which shortened one boundary, and it was quicker than the ones Jaipur had produced for Rajasthan's five previous home games. Chennai scored 196, 37 more than the previous-highest score at the ground this season, and won by 63 runs.
"In four years, we've never been told which pitch to play on or how to prepare it," a visibly upset Warne said after the defeat. "We have no idea who instructed it but it wasn't coming from us. Every other team has that opportunity [to prepare and choose their home pitches]; we don't."
When asked why Rajasthan had been instructed to play on a particular pitch against Chennai, Warne insisted he didn't know and asked the reporters to find out and decide for themselves. Warne, however, made it clear he wasn't making excuses for the loss, saying Chennai were the better team on the day, but emphasised it was strange why, after four years, they suddenly had the right to choose the pitch at their home ground taken away from them.
"I don't want to make too much of a point about the pitch because Chennai outplayed us; both teams had to play on the same pitch and we weren't good enough today. But it is a shame that we are the only home team to not get what we want."
However, Sanjay Dixit, the Rajasthan Cricket Association's honorary secretary and a senior bureaucrat in the Rajasthan government, told ESPNcricinfo on Tuesday that teams have never been in charge of choosing which pitch they played on in the IPL, and that he was surprised by Warne's comments. He said Rajasthan had been notified, in writing, about the change of pitch on May 2. "It was officially conveyed to them. So they had known this for about the week."
The pitch at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium first came under the scanner when Mumbai Indians were restricted to 94 for 8 on April 29 and Sachin Tendulkar called the surface two-paced after his team's defeat. The chairman of the BCCI's grounds and pitches committee, Venkat Sundaram, was present at Rajasthan's next home game, against Pune Warriors on May 1, which drew an angry reaction from Warne, who was under the impression Mumbai had made an official complaint about the track. Warne accused Mumbai of making excuses, but Mumbai later denied they had made any complaint.
According to Dixit, the decision to switch pitches was taken after Sundaram watched the Pune game. Warne had defended the Jaipur pitch at the time and did so again after the Chennai game: "For four years we've played on whichever pitch we've wanted to; the average score here is 154 and every time we've produced an excellent pitch."
The tracks at Jaipur have generally been slow and offered some turn, and Rajasthan with their spin-heavy attack had notched up four home victories before Monday's game, restricting their opponents to less than 150 in three of those wins. Against Chennai, Warne said he thought 170 would have been about a par score, considering they were playing with "kiddies" boundaries.
"They got 20 runs too many thanks to Dhoni's superb knock. We thought if we kept them down to 170-175 with the kiddies boundary, on a fast track that didn't turn like normal, we would have a chance. We never like playing with such a short boundary. I think' it's ridiculous."
On Tuesday evening, the BCCI also clarified in a release that IPL teams did not have a say in choosing pitches. "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," the release said. "The committee sent recommendations 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 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.
"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 committee chairman, who prepares the wickets."
Sundaram said: "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."
Rajasthan will play one more match in Jaipur, on May 11, against Royal Challengers Bangalore and the same pitch will be used for that game.