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ICC anti-corruption team in Pune to probe pitch controversy

Pandurang Salgaoncar, the pitch curator at the Maharashtra cricket association stadium, speaks to reporters Sidharth Monga/ESPNcricinfo

Groundsmen and curators will likely be brought into the anti-corruption education loop in the future, as investigations into the Pune pitch controversy intensify. In a sign of how seriously it is treating the matter, the ICC has sent additional officials from its anti-corruption unit (ACU) in Dubai to assist with investigations.

Hours before the second ODI between India and New Zealand on Wednesday, the BCCI "dismissed" Pandurang Salgaoncar, the head groundsman, for alleged "malpractice" that was captured by two undercover reporters from an Indian television network.

This is the second time in recent years the ACU has investigated a groundsman. In January 2016, the ICC suspended former Sri Lankan player Jayananda Warnaweera, who was the curator at Galle International Stadium, for three years for failing to cooperate with an ACU investigation.

Bir Singh, the ACU officer travelling with the Indian and New Zealand teams, is understood to have already started his probe and has been joined by Steve Richardson, the ACU's coordinator (investigations). That investigation will be carried out independently and will not involve the BCCI's anti-corruption unit. In addition to Salgaoncar, the ACU is likely to also speak to the undercover reporters that carried out the sting.

India Today TV, which carried out the sting operation, has said the reporters shot the video with Salgaoncar over two days (October 23 and 24) before the game, but a BCCI official said only the ACU probe would be able to confirm that. In the video, Salgaoncar is seen telling the reporters that the pitch would be full of runs. "It is very good. It will garner 337 runs. And 337 will be chaseable."

In the game itself, New Zealand were restricted to 230, a target India chased down with four overs to spare on a pitch that slowed during the latter part of the match.

Though it is not yet clear what charges Salgaoncar could face, a BCCI official said that in apparently allowing what appear to be unaccredited personnel into the ground and onto the pitch, there is a case for "misconduct". According to the anti-corruption code, no unaccredited personnel can be on the ground, let alone the pitch, days before an international match. "He had no business giving them access or information about the pitch," the official said.

The BCCI has since alerted groundstaff at the Green Park stadium in Kanpur, which hosts the series' decider on Sunday, to not allow any outsiders onto the ground. Only authorised staff can go near the pitch and media will not be allowed onto the ground. All the gates at Green Park have been locked and security personnel have been asked to only allow groundstaff and Uttar Pradesh Cricket Association (the ground's host) officials entry.

Once its investigations are wrapped up, the ICC's ACU is likely to point out to the BCCI the lack or absence of anti-corruption information available to curators and local groundstaff across India. The BCCI has only made it mandatory for the players and coaches to adhere to the anti-corruption code. With just one ACU officer present at the ground, and usually manning the players and match officials area, it is often difficult to widen his gaze and keep an eye on groundstaff as well.

"The curators and groundstaff should be brought under the ambit of the anti-corruption education programme to develop the awareness," the board official said. "They should be careful who they speak with including the media. And if any approach is made they should immediately report the matter and follow the same protocol that is followed by the players. That is the main takeaway."

A senior Indian curator welcomed the suggestion. "We should not disclose anything on the pitch to anybody including media. We are not authorised and any communication should go from the BCCI. So educating the groundstaff is a good idea."

But the curator also pointed out that Ramesh Mahmunkar, the member of the BCCI's grounds and pitches committee, was present in the ground when Salgaoncar was speaking with the reporters on the pitch - Salgaoncar, in fact, is seen referring to him in the video when telling the reporters that protocol does not allow them to be on the pitch. Usually, however, it is the head groundsman - in this case Salgaoncar - who holds control of the ground and makes sure that only authorised personnel can enter the ground and go near to the pitch.

The MCA, too, is in favour of educating the groundstaff. "Because some times people talk very loosely," an MCA official said. "They have to monitor what is said and to whom."